The blessings of Christ are open to us all. But take a moment and think of what would happen if it became known that the gifts promised by Jesus were really bestowed upon you individually. Who would be angry or disappointed? The answer might surprise you . . . but the foundations of that answer were laid in the Gospels.
Today’s Gospel of Matthew reading tells of Jesus’ healing of two demon-possessed people; Jesus sent the demons into a herd of swine, which proceeded to run into the sea and drown themselves. The swineherds reported this to their town, and there’s a wonderful line in the Gospel: Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district. (Matthew 8:34)
Why was the town insistent that Jesus leave? There are any number of reasons, but I suspect one of the primary was that they were upset at losing a whole bunch of money (in the form of livestock). Obviously the good outweighed the ill in this situation – some pigs are a small price to pay for giving meaningful life to two people – but there was still “collateral damage” that was upsetting for the other townspeople.
So what are some of the promises of Christ, and who would react poorly to them?
Christ promises us a life free of fear. That’s anathema to countless forces that would profit on our anxieties: panic-stoking politicians, unscrupulous news agencies, peddlers of doomsday supplies, purveyors of eschatological “insight.”
Christ promises us peace and contentment. That would be terrible for the creators of countless distractions of the modern world: bars where people drink to forget, vacation locales offering opulent delights, gambling establishments enticing with the possibility of easy riches, dealers in illicit drugs where a moment’s respite from reality is just an injection away.
Christ promises us unconditional love and an acceptance of our broken selves. That’s awful for those who want to sell us their version of “acceptance”: expensive cliques that encourage us to consume more than we need, clubs where membership is a paycheck away, medical professionals who can claim to solve our ennui or dissatisfaction with a lifetime prescription.
Christ promises us a Sacrament that forgives our sins. That’s bad news for those who benefit from everyone’s fallen natures: those who seek to control or diminish others by refusing to let go of past wrongs, those who claim you can be relieved of your faults by sending them money.
Christ promises us a church built upon the rock of Peter, one where “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) That’s a bitter pill for those who want their own religions, tailor-made to “coincidentally” accept or reject what they already believe to be true.
Christ promises us entry into an eternal life of infinite love, a life beyond the greatest wonders we can even consider. That’s odious to those who want you to believe this world is the only one worth thinking about: every element that would seek to fill the spiritual hole in our lives with material goods or physical comfort. The futility of that effort is good for them, because it means they can keep selling to us over and over and over . . .
The fact is, for every one of us who would receive a blessing from Christ, there are countless others who would beg Jesus to leave town for doing so. Perhaps you yourself would beg Jesus to leave if He truly impacted your life, or the life of someone close to you; the true implications of a life renewed in Christ are staggering. The power of Christ is world-changing, and if enough of us were truly committed to His majesty and message, a seemingly endless number of people would beg Him to leave our hearts, their livelihoods ruined like pigs drowned in the sea.