Starting Point
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Issue Date:  November 3, 2006

Starting Point


I’ve always wished I could be cleverer than I am. Churches that have sign boards often post a witty/clever/insightful title for the pastor’s sermon that weekend. Titles like: “If you think it’s hot here …” or “Join us, we have great future benefits.” I’ve never been able to come up with those kinds of titles for my homilies. I don’t even try. I do recognize though when a good turn of phrase catches my attention.

In the mail last summer, I received a postcard that had the big headline: “Saving Jesus.” That was enough to get me to read the subtitle: “Has Jesus been kidnapped?” Now I was hooked. I, who sort the mail standing directly over the recycling bin, put that postcard aside to read.

It’s an intriguing notion that we could “save” Jesus. In the world he turned upside down by what he proclaimed and what he taught, could the Savior need saving? Those who sent me the postcard seemed to believe he did.

Jesus, they contended, is being used by various groups to advance their agendas. For instance, the Jesus who was so much a part of the peace movement of the ’60s is now solidly behind all attempts to eradicate terrorism, especially by preemptive strikes. Jesus supports our troops. They also said the general population has been convinced Jesus is the source of “God helps those who help themselves,” in an attempt to decrease governmental support for welfare programs. In fact, of course, Jesus would never have said anything like that. Ben Franklin would and did.

I suppose it’s an old trick, proclaiming God is on our side. Pope Urban did it when he called the crusades; ayatollahs do it in fostering holy wars. The truth is, we do Jesus a disservice when we claim he loves us more than he loves our enemy. It’s hard to believe that God could love equally. Which is why, when it comes down to me or you, every one of us winds up believing God would pick me to love best.

Fr. George R. Szews is the pastor of a campus ministry parish in Eau Claire, Wis.

National Catholic Reporter, November 3, 2006

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