Choosing the Impossible

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James Joyce described history as hell, a nightmare from which we all are trying to wake up. This may be true if we look at the dark side of the history of the monstrosity of human excesses and violence. But there is also the bright side that we cannot simply dismiss as a pile of ruins. We can also see human heroism and virtuous excellence. Hence, we can look at history in another way. We can see it as an opening to the future, to the possibility of the impossible. History faces us with the impossible. Jesus invites us to do more than the pagans when he exhorts us to forgive and pray for our enemies and those that persecute us. The pagans are satisfied with the possibility/ possible. They only love those who love them. The challenge of Jesus is in the impossible which becomes an invitation to be more/embodied love.

Doing the impossible brings us to God. It is like the God of Genesis who went on doing God day by day. We are called by his kingdom to keep doing good/ being good every day. This doing/being good is doing the impossible. It is not just keeping the law. Jesus went about doing good. He avoided doing the possible. The possible is barely the minimum. It belongs to the domain of law. He broke the Sabbath and taught that man is not made for the Sabbath alone (for the possible) but Sabbath is made for man. This means humans are made for the impossible. Jesus always stood for the impossible. Where there is impossible, there is God.

Several miracles of Jesus manifest Jesus on the brink of the impossible. He does the impossible and does the will of his father. Let us take the case of the healing of a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1–6). The keepers of the law kept a watchful eye on him. They simply want him to do the possible by observing the Sabbath. Jesus does the impossible. He heals the man. We can stand on the side of Jesus and side the impossible. We can think of the Sabbath as the day of recreation. We all love recreations. Recreation can be viewed as a time for continuous review of the ongoing work of creation. It is time to inscribe the good that God uttered after each day of creation. Thus by doing the impossible, Jesus keeps the Sabbath holy. He keeps the law by making it impossible/ by making it full of life.

The seventh day in Genesis reminds us of the unfinished task. Jesus brings this unfinished task to perfection/ completion. He observes the Sabbath as a day to bring to rest all things/ to restore all things to God. Jesus brought the withered hand of man to healing and restored him. This means Jesus got the restless sufferings of the man to rest. He embraced the impossible and let something new, something unforeseen, and unanticipated break-in so that good that God uttered continues and come to completion. The good that God uttered at creation is both a proclamation and promise. It is the proclamation and promise of the impossible. It is impossible because God wants to proclaim and promise in his fully human and fully divine son and through him through each of us. We are brought into the economy of the impossible through Jesus. Like Jesus, we have the challenge to bring to rest/ restore everything back to God.

We know that God’s utterance of good was recorded when the people of Israel were in exile. It, therefore, was both a promise as well as a provocation. We can hear in it a call to us to make good on the “good,” God uttered and to repeat God’s good, and not to be faint of heart in the midst of our distress. Therefore, even amidst the ruins of history, even when history becomes hell, we are challenged to bring things to rest at the feet of Jesus Christ and restore them to the Good that God uttered at first creation. This bringing everything to rest with God is a continuous task that does not allow us to rest. Staying in the impossible has no time to rest. It is a time of mission of restoration of all things in Christ to God our father.

Jesus by healing on a Sabbath brings Sabbath to rest not in the passive possibilities of observing the law that fails to give life but as a time to utter the good that God uttered at creation. Therefore, to each one of us, it is not just a mission to bring all things to rest in God but to also bring ourselves to rest in God. It is a time of metanoia or the change of heart that leads us to a rejuvenated thirst to work with God to bring everything and everyone to be renewed in Christ. We have Jesus as our model. He did the impossible to the point of his suffering, death and resurrection and brought everything and everyone to rest/ to restoration with God. He fully lived the logic of the impossible and hence truly becomes our light as well as a companion in our task to live as well as continue the divine utterance of good at first creation. Living like Jesus is staying with the impossible. We have to be more. We cannot just be satisfied with the possible.

Our love and service cannot have boundaries. Jesus lovingly border crossed to embrace the sinners, lost sheep, prodigal sons, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, lepers, the blind, the lame, the possessed, the children etc. Today we may have to update the list to include the gays and lesbians, illegal immigrants, unwed mothers, the HIV-positive, drug addicts, prisoners, and, after 9/11 the Muslims, the Palestinians, Dalits, women, tribals, the minoritized and the marginalized etc. This list includes everyone who is outside, outlawed, outclassed—in short, everyone who is just plain out and should stay out of sight. Embracing these persons that we have named in the list is impossible. What is possible is to close our eyes and move on with our ritualistic, legalist, clericalist discipleship. We have a radical call to follow Christ and do the impossible and keep uttering the good that God uttered at first creation.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao