The changing evangelical normality

“‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ … ‘Come and see.’” – John 1:46

Jesus’ whole existence is a constant paradox: his birth in a Bethlehem manger, his 30 years living an anonymous life as a carpenter in Nazareth, his doctrine of universal love, his forgiveness of his enemies, his embracing of the shameful cross, his long stay in the tomb, his resurrection, the selection and sending of his poor disciples to preach to the world. These are just a few signs that the only norm of Jesus is surprising evangelical change.

The coronavirus has disrupted our lives in such a way that we are all longing to return to “normality.” We forget that, as disciples, Jesus sent us to bear witness to something completely new, something abnormal. In a world full of noise, Jesus commands us to search for silence. In a society overcome with lust, he calls us to be examples of purity. In a system that promotes greed, Jesus invites us to embrace poverty. In a society that worships security, Jesus wants us to trust in providence. In a world that defends vindictive justice, Jesus wants us to turn the other cheek to the one who slaps us.  

The paradoxical surprises of Jesus break every law that prevents us from further growth. The evangelical changes are not simply rebelliousness. Instead, they are the inner spur that allows us to discover the greatness of our call to perfection in his love.

“Evangelical normality” makes my prayer surprise me in an intimate loving dialogue with my Lord and Savior, turns the Eucharist into the force to encounter new brothers. The evangelical norm does not allow me to remain indifferent to the suffering world, whether in Patagonia or in the Arctic, without moving to offer the eternal surprise of Jesus.

Jesus did not want to abolish the law but to give it fullness of content (see Matthew 5:17-48). Our Christian values have to be much higher than in any other worldly society. Higher in our relationship with others, not only in respect but also in forgiveness, fraternity and charity, even toward our enemies. Highest in purity and fidelity of the body and the soul, for we are the work and the presence of the Creator. Highest in praise, as God is almighty and surprisingly mysterious.

Mary, aware of not being able to encompass the wisdom of God with her human intelligence, sings from her Jewish faith the wonders of God throughout the history of the chosen people: “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:46-55). Mary allowed herself to be “surprised” once more by her almighty God and Creator who became a baby in her womb. That is how she learned that the Good News, which is Jesus, would be the surprising and ever-changing norm for centuries to come.

Let us live surprised.

Northwest Catholic - October 2020

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., es obispo auxiliar de Seattle y vicario para el ministerio hispano.