As a chaplain. one of my favourite parts of my role is being part of our university community’s conversations about religion and faith in the modern world. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of debating topics like the existence of God, how we approach love and sex, whether or not religion breeds extremism and many more.

For those of you who read one of past blog posts where I collaborated with some of my pupils, you may be glad to hear that I called on my 5th years to help me reflect on the gospel reading again this week… We kept coming back to the problematic picture of justice Jesus paints in this speech.

In order to go a little deeper into the meaning of a text, a contemplative reading practice is often helpful. By placing ourselves in the text, we can pick up on subtleties and read between the lines. In imagining ourselves as Simon, we have the opportunity to think about what Simon was feeling, what was going on in his head as he listened to Jesus.

In today’s age, it's difficult to cut through the noise and sometimes understand the significance of proclamations and announcements. We find the speed to keep up with our world too much, and, in parallel, delivering less and less complexity. I say this to preface the need for Christians, especially in the West, to read their Holy Text with a great deal more patience. 

This passage has always baffled me. When you compare this miracle to the many others that Jesus performs it can seem frivolous or unimportant. Why does John include Jesus turning water into wine when he is capable of healing people, calming storms, and raising people from the dead?

Sitting on top of the bookcase in our living room is a framed list of new year’s resolutions. There is something powerful about writing them down and putting them in a place that you’ll see them. By the time 2018 started to draw to a close, I did my best to not make eye contact with them.

The Gospel writers knew a thing or two about subtlety and subversive messaging. They were arguably more intelligent and insightful than the majority of their readers. We could be inclined to skim-read verses 1-2 of this passage, silently imploring Luke to get to the point.

A few months ago, our glorious leader and founder of this blog, Scott Evans, told me about how he brings more people into this conversation by getting students he works with at UCD engaged in the project. I was inspired to try pulling some of the pupils from Wilson’s in too.

There’s an old saying of unclear origin that says you should never discuss politics or religion either at the dinner table or in polite company. As a maxim, it has held for a long time because it was thought to be uncouth to dive in to topics that could arouse such passionate responses in courteous conversation (though Trump, Brexit and 2018 have made it hard to stick to).

When I was 18, I was convinced I needed glasses. I waited for weeks to tell my parents, as I struggled to study and get homework done and suffered from constant headaches. I didn’t tell them because I thought I could cope. I could handle the work and the headaches.

It’s always a little unnerving when someone tries to control your reaction before they have even asked their question. It sets mental alarm bells ringing because if they were bringing you good news or asking you to do something you wanted to do then they wouldn’t need to tell you how to react.

What on earth is going on in this passage?

Readers can’t escape the fact that this text is about divorce. We can try as much as we want to abstract a generalized principle from the text about the nature of relationships. If we’re going to be faithful to the text, we must, in a sense, take what Jesus says seriously.

For the last while some of my friends and I have been handing in masters theses. These are the paper manifestation of pain, panic, and procrastination, along with occasional flashes of confidence that we might have a clue what we’re talking about.

I first approached this passage with some incredulity. The followers of Jesus, his disciples, the very men first chosen to hear the Son of Man’s teachings, are arguing about who is the greatest amongst themselves. Greatest in what? Knowledge? Who can run the fastest?