19th Sunday Reflection: The Victim – Discontent And Bitterness
THE VICTIM – DISCONTENT AND BITTERNESS – (John 6:41-51)
Discontent and bitterness; Job is our model here… Job was still grieving the loss of his children and his wealth when Job’s health was ravaged. In many ways, this is the worst trial we can face. Given time, we can cope with most losses and failures, but once our health begins to fail, we must devote so much time and effort to finding and maintaining our strength, managing pain, and focusing on life’s most basic needs, that many necessary things often fall by the wayside.
What do we do when we feel cheated by life, lose something, or even someone we love? How do we react when something we desire passionately is withheld from us? Do we focus on our discontent and how ‘unfair’ life is? All too often, our minds turn to discontent and bitterness, seeing ourselves as victims; an anger that will eventually devour us.
Today we are presented with two lists, one of vice, and the second of virtues that lead us either to destruction or life. Bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling, and malice are shown to be the opposite of redemption and to the life offered to us in the Spirit. Examples abound, but often we are too close to the forest to see the trees, or for that matter, the log in our own eyes.
We can easily miss the Word of life and healing if familiarity leads us to despise another who may be the instrument that God chooses to work through. John states that the Jews murmured at Jesus. They listened to him, but with a critical heart rather than with an open ear and an earnest desire to learn what God wanted to speak to them through Jesus.
There are many different ways that we can choose to listen to others: with an attitude of superiority, with indifference, with discontent and bitterness, or with a teachable spirit that wishes to learn, to understand, grow, and to be transformed. How we listen to each other will be a reflection of how we listen to God’s word.
The Jews complain against Jesus and turn to each other for support in their anger and malice. Truth can stand alone, but the blame game requires attention through noise and numbers, as though what is believed by a hundred shouting, angry people must be truer than what is believed by only one.
When noise and numbers attack, truth must steel itself, raise its’ eyes to heaven and patiently wait. Truth is the most powerful reality in existence. It needs no armies to defend it and, ultimately, it always prevails. We are all called to live from the true self; living from connection and communion with God, who is Truth, with everyone, and with all of creation.
This is our roadmap to transformation, to let go of judging, contempt, complaining, resenting, bitterness, and lashing out, even in our minds. Such people change the world. That is what we are called to be in the world…a new nature, created to be ‘like God’. The true lightning rods of God’s energy in the world, the true instruments, to get our ‘who’ right, before we try to figure out ‘what’ to do about evil and violence.
Who decides what is true? The electorate, the majority, the consumers, community standards? Jesus is not looking for our opinions, or our clinical tests, or our consensus; he is seeking disciples who can say with Peter: Lord … you have the message of eternal life, and we believe…
Jesus offers us real life to bring us into a new relationship with God, a relationship of trust, love, and obedience. He offers us real, abundant, sustaining life now and forever, a life of enduring love, fellowship, communion, and union with the One who made us from and for Love.
To accept this we need to remove from our hearts all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling, along with all malice. May we always hunger for the true and sustaining bread which comes from heaven and find in it the nourishment and strength we need to truly love and serve God and each other. We must continually begin again.