A THEOLOGY OF INTERRUPTIONS
Fr Luke A. Veronis
How many of us like being interrupted? We may be in the middle of doing something, and then someone unexpectedly comes up to us, interrupts us, and disrupts our planned schedule. What about when we’re doing something really important? How do we react with such interruptions?
Interruptions can be quite inconvenient and annoying, and yet, Jesus offers a beautiful lesson on dealing with interruptions. Think about how He treated the people who interrupted Him? Remember when children wanted to interrupt Jesus, and the disciples tried to send them away? Christ promptly corrected His apostles and then welcomed and even blessed the children. This interruption was no bother for Christ, but he saw it as an opportunity to bless the children.
Then there’s the story of Jesus sitting in the home of an important religious leader. In the middle of their meal, a prostitute barges into the house and interrupts their conversation, scandalizing the host by falling at Jesus’ feet, crying uncontrollably while washing the feet of Jesus with her tears. As the Pharisee tries to cast the woman out of his home, furious at her audacious disturbance, Jesus softly addresses the woman, forgives her sins, and offers healing for her broken life. For Christ, this interruption – and here is the essence of His ministry and life –was an opportunity to offer love to a person in need.
What about the story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus praises the traveler who interrupts his journey in order to reach out to the person in need, while criticizing the priest and religious worker who found it inconvenient to interrupt their important schedules and chose not to help out.
There’s another beautiful story about Jesus dealing with interruptions when he goes to visit Jarius, the ruler of a town synagogue. (Lk 8:40-56) Jarius urgently wanted Christ to come to his home because his daughter was deathly ill. In the midst of this emergency, a simple woman, an outcast of society due to her illness and gender, approached Jesus in the most unnoticeable manner. She didn’t feel worthy to bother Him and knew that others would scold her and chase her away if she bothered the Master. They would perceive her interruption quite inappropriate and even outrageous, especially since Jesus was with such an important person. Yet quietly, humbly, inconspicuously she approached Jesus, only hoping to touch his garment and believing that such contact would bring her healing.
Well, she touched Jesus and was immediately healed. Her illness of 12 years cured in a moment. What is just as amazing as the miracle itself, though, is how our Lord responded to this inconvenient interruption. Although He was with a VIP whose daughter was dying, He took the time to look for the woman in the midst of a crowd, and when she came forth “trembling,” afraid of her impudence, Jesus comforted her saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
The synagogue leader may have been annoyed and angry at the delay, especially after learning that his daughter had died, yet Jesus always dealt with whoever was in front of Him with respect, kindness and love. Christ treated an important synagogue leader and an outcast woman in the same manner. Rank, fame, wealth, or position meant nothing to Jesus. He saw every person as a beloved child of God, worthy of respect and attention, no matter what their earthly status was.
Jesus gave His attention to the marginalized woman and then addressed the issue at Jarius’ house. He raises his daughter from the dead!
Two wonderful miracles showing Christ’s power over illness and death. Yet, what I would like to highlight is how Jesus dealt with the unexpected interruption. Dr. Jon Bonk made me aware of what he called a Theology of Interruptions. Throughout the life and ministry of Jesus, Christ always strove to make the Kingdom of God present in the lives of whomever He met, whenever he met them.
Whether someone was important or insignificant, whether they were rich or poor, whether they were faithful or heretical, whether they were pious or sinful, Christ met them wherever they were, whenever He encountered them. He then proceeded to heal, forgive, raise the dead, and usher in the Kingdom of God whenever he had an opportunity. He had no agenda. Christ’s agenda was to be present for whoever was in front of Him at the present moment. If there was what seemed to be an interruption, He simply looked at it as an opportunity. If a woman of no consequence interrupted his meeting with a VIP, he gave His attention to the woman and addressed her needs, while also taking care of the VIP at the appropriate time.
This Theology of Interruptions is something I think each of us can learn from and strive to imitate. Oftentimes we are so full of ourselves and our own agenda that we don’t notice who God brings before us every day – people with whom are opportunities to fulfill His will. Of course, we have a daily schedule, with its plans and programs and tasks we want to accomplish. Yet throughout our busy day, people may show up unexpectedly, and we will have a choice to make. Should we ignore them? Should we become annoyed by their presence? Or should we see each person as an opportunity to bring God’s love to them?
We may have to adjust our schedule. We may have to change our plans. Maybe we won’t accomplish all the tasks we wanted. Yet God is interrupting us and asking us to become instruments of His love, compassion, and mercy at that moment to the person in front of us. No longer will there ever be any annoying or inconvenient interruptions. Instead, every interruption will become a new and exciting opportunity to serve the Lord and bring glory to His name!
Remember this theology of interruptions!
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Liturgy: The Meaning and Celebration of the Eucharist