A couple of years ago there was a popular movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel about a group of British retirees who come to Mumbai, India, to live out their retirements. It is a feel good movie that the British are so good at producing. These British retirees are enticed to the Marigold by the exaggerated advertisements designed by the young manager - but the run-down hotel is nothing like what is pictured in the slick brochure.
Each of the seven guests deals with the challenges of their new circumstances with varying degrees of English stiff-upper-lip stoicism. Jean Ainslie (irritatingly played by Penelope Wilton) is a relentlessly negative woman who despises everything about India: the heat, the food, the poverty, and the unrelenting masses. Having lost their retirement savings in their daughter's internet start-up, Jean resents both her new life and her floundering marriage. Angry and afraid, she refuses to leave the hotel.
Graham Dashwood (played by Tom Wilkinson) on the other hand, is a retired London High Court judge who had spent his early years in India. He has an abiding love for the land and deep respect for its people, and shares his affection for India with his fellow guests.
One afternoon, Jean finds herself having tea with Graham. Desperate to leave India, Jean asks the retired high court judge, "How can you bear this country? What do you see that I don't?" Graham replies thoughtfully and immediately, "The light, colours, smiles. And the way people here see life as a privilege and not a right. It teaches me something . . . Why would you not go out? There is so much to see. All life is here, Mrs. Ainslie."
In his thoughtful and insightful reply I think Graham captures something of what the people of the synagogue must have seen in Jesus in today’s gospel. They are drawn to Jesus' vision of hope, his optimism, his wisdom, his revelation of God's loving presence in the "light, colours and smiles" of their everyday lives.
As I reflected upon this weekend’s gospel I could not help but think that the source of Jesus' "authority" is not in manipulating his hearers' fear, apathy or ignorance but rather his ability to inspire them to embrace his spirit of mercy, justice and respect.
That is why those who speak, not to our emotions and wants, but to our consciences are very important. Here in our Kangaroo Point East Brisbane Parish, and in our wider community, we don’t need any more people who will just spin us more and more catchy slogans. What we need is fellow parishioners whose lives reflect the convictions of their experience; the confidence that only comes from persistently living out their faith. As you look around today you will probably notice people in the pews whose lives likewise possess a form of “authority” that is of God, an authority that is worthy of our respect and attentiveness. It does not come easy or without a price!
This weekend’s Gospel tells us that Jesus acted and spoke with authority. It is daunting to consider that we have all the ingredients in our lives to possess that God-given "authority" through the lives we are living now, and the choices we are making through the positive and authentic example we allow to ripple out from our actions and attitudes. Fr Peter Brannelly