Lord of the Unexpected

A story is told about a certain bishop who went visiting all of the parishes in his diocese.  Upon arriving in a certain town he found the priest not at the church or in the rectory, and after inquiring among some of the townsfolk discovered that he was out in the fields helping his parishioners with the wheat harvest.  The bishop found the priest in the field working as a common laborer and scolded him severely in front of his parishioners.  The priest took the criticism in stride, excused himself from the rest of his work, and brought the bishop back to the rectory for supper.  The priest’s table was poor, as his parish was poor and he gave away all that he could to his parishioners.  The bishop did little throughout the meal but complain about the food and the poor upkeep of the house, and that night kept the poor priest awake complaining about the quality of the priest’s bed, which he had happily given up for the bishop.  The next morning the priest asked the bishop if he would like to celebrate Mass, but the bishop said that he’d rather see just how the poor priest celebrated Mass.  A great heavy chair was brought into the sanctuary so that the bishop could watch the priest’s every move. 

When it came time to offer the sacrifice the bishop saw a great light shine forth from the Lord’s Body and Blood and bathe the poor priest in such a way that it hurt the bishop to look at him.  When it came time for Holy Communion the bishop put on a stole to assist, but as he approached the altar he found he could not pick up the sacred vessels.  Once, twice, three times he tried, and then he understood.  At the end of the Mass he asked if he might say something to the people.  The poor priest was very nervous that the bishop was going to humiliate him in front of everyone all over again, but instead the bishop praised the poor priest saying, “Your pastor works harder in a single day than I do all year long, and he offers Mass more devoutly than any bishop I know.  You’re lucky to have him, and I ask you to pray that I might one day be half the priest that he is.” 

Jesus is the Lord of the Unexpected.  The people know that the Messiah is to come from Bethlehem, but Jesus is from Galilee; not just the wrong place, but literally the wrong side of the tracks.  He shatters the expectations, not just of the scribes and Pharisees, but of everybody, even the soldiers.  “Never has anyone spoken like this man,” they say, and nor would anyone ever again.  And yet for some it is just too much, too hard to believe that God would intervene in this way, too hard to imagine that God wouldn’t conform Himself to our expectations.  What are our expectations, both of ourselves, and of our God?  What will we “allow” God to do in our lives, and what would be just too much?  Where might I be rejecting the Prophet whom God sends me today, because he comes from the wrong place, or she speaks the wrong language, or belongs to the wrong group?  Can I accept the truth of a thing no matter what its source?  Can I be changed by a person, even a stranger, if in them I hear the voice of God?  Let us today follow the counsel of wise old Nicodemus, who cautions against condemning someone until we find out what they are doing.  Better, let us look for the prophet and listen for the voice of God today which seems to come from the most unlikely of places.