The Medium is the Message


JMJ


The Readings for Monday in the Fifth Week of Easter
The Feast of Pope St Pius V

Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

This scene of the Lystrians offering sacrifices to Zeus and Hermes is one of my favorite events in all of the New Testament outside of the Gospels. It’s so funny, so embarrassing to the apostles that it must certainly be true: why would you make such a mortifying story?

Anyone who has been involved in teaching for a while can certainly understand this story. A message so life-changing might lead to a crush on the teacher. This teaching came with a miracle, a sign of spiritual power, but it’s clear that none of the teaching sank in, or if it did, the miracle nearly destroyed everything.

This event reminds us that the medium is the message: Since the gospel is proclaimed in action and word, in fact, we are the media. Paul and Barnabas did nothing other than fall prey to what might be called a cultural bias among the Greeks. The Jews have a different understanding of Miracles, they know that God does them through people. To the Greeks, a Miracle is a sign of the gods acting here. They get all swept up in the presence of power and they begin to do things to flatter the egos of the actors whom they assume are gods. They are like children who bring presents to a teacher to woo her into giving them better grades. This is how we tend to act towards powerful people: we try to get their attention and get them to help us or to give us stuff. Ethical people in power do what the apostles did, and try to redirect the worship to the right person.

Unethical teachers, however, are swayed by the gifts not into giving more presents to their students, but rather into taking advantage of their students. Much of our recent history is of corrupt teachers, corrupt media ruining the message. This is what the sex abuse Scandal is all about: ego, pride, and power where there should be kenosis, humility, and charity.

We are used to thinking of the Gospel as words on a page, or perhaps a book carried in procession at Mass. But the Gospel is good news. It is in fact you that is the Gospel. Your words, your actions, your driving, your comments on Facebook, your deep data, your voting habits, the way you love your spouse, the way you care for your children, the way you act in your community; all of these things define the Gospel for those around you. Long before anyone ever even picked up a Bible to look, these things all either proclaim Jesus to those around you, or they failed to do so.

Jesus says, the word you hear is not mine, but the word of him who sent me. Would that that were true of all of us every day.

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