The day-to-day life of Jesus was probably filled with interruptions. From what we see throughout the Gospel, people constantly interrupted Jesus to ask for things. They asked for things like healing, answers to their questions, signs of his power and favors. From his own mother at a wedding interrupting Jesus to let him know that the wine had run out, to the penitent thief on the cross next to Jesus interrupting Jesus’ dying moments by asking to be remembered, Jesus life was marked by one interruption after another.
One of the many things I admire about Jesus is how he handles these interruptions. Jesus has an incredible ability to tactfully transform interruptions into something good. Something good not just for himself, but for everyone. Jesus does this by fully accepting interruptions and not ignoring them. Our Gospel tonight is a perfect example.
The action starts with Jesus teaching at a synagogue. We are told by the Gospel writer that the people who were listening to Jesus teach were astounded by his words. I think we all know that feeling of being in the middle of really good lesson and you are just hanging on to every word the teacher is saying. Then we are told that suddenly Jesus is interrupted by a man with an unclean spirit who starts crying out at Jesus.
Now as a former teacher, I can tell you from personal experience how aggravating it is to have a good class interrupted. All it takes is one person to interrupt and it can feel like the whole flow is ruined. Somehow Jesus is able to avoid this.
I want to begin by saying how glad I am to be back among you, and to express my gratitude to the Brothers for the opportunity to be on sabbatical for the last 10 weeks, and especially to Brother Keith who covered for me. I also want to say thank you, to all of you who have held me in your prayers these last weeks, as I did you in mine.
My time away was extraordinary. I was able to see members of my family, some of whom I have not seen since before 2019. I spent time in Oxford, which, as you know is where the community began in 1866, and is a place over the last years I am coming to know well, and where I feel at home. The Sunday before I left Oxford, I preached in Father Benson’s former parish, standing in the pulpit where he once stood, which for me is always a thrill.
The bulk of my time away however I spent walking in Wales. The experience was exhilarating; the scenery spectacular; the people constantly generous. Even on the day, which my sister described as level 2 fun (in other words, not fun at the time, but fun in hindsight) when it took me 8 hours to walk 9 miles, which included the equivalent of 82 flights of stairs, and along paths far too close to the cliff edge for my liking, I never once thought of giving up, or wondered why on earth I was doing this. Every afternoon at the end of my walk, I was simply glad of a beer, a hot shower, a good meal, and a comfortable bed. Every morning, except for a few days when it was pouring rain; the day of the Queen’s funeral; and a couple days when all I wanted to do was sit in a coffee shop with my novel, I was ready to head out once again and walk. Of a possible 190 miles, I walked 135 of them, so I’m totally thrilled.