CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 23, 2014

3e194cf9787453fefff6571e784cf4cc_w600Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Perfection is not what we think it is. It is not making a set of rules and then perfectly and unerringly carrying out the letter of those rules. That is legalism, an attitude and outlook which Jesus condemns as the worst kind of imperfection. Perfection consists in boundless, non-judgmental love made real in human affairs by our capacity to love those who do us harm or reject us. It is not the avoidance of sin that makes us perfect; it is love of even our enemies that makes us like the Father.

But unconditional love of even enemies is not a passive activity. Jesus taught nonviolence. This passage in the gospel of Matthew makes that clear enough, and his entire life, particularly his behavior at his arrest and during his passion show that Jesus saw the way of nonviolence as fundamental to life in communion with God. Jesus teaches nonviolence, but he does not teach rolling over and playing dead. Rather, he encourages a way for those in a position of powerlessness to recover and retain their dignity when powerful people attempt to denigrate them. Each of the situations that this gospel passage describes requires an oppressor to make a choice. If I as a powerless person am hit but turn my other cheek to the one who hit me, the oppressor must choose whether to continue the assault. If someone wants to sue me for my possessions, and I offer to give more than he asks, the litigant has to negotiate with me as an equal about what he is willing to take. If someone compels my service for a mile, and I have no choice in the circumstance, I reclaim my dignity at the end of the mile by giving them more than they have the right to compel from me.

When Jesus teaches us to not offer physical resistance, he does not teach us to be punching bags in the face of oppression. He instead teaches us to grab the moral initiative, confront violence with creativity and imagination, resist humiliation, seek the transformation of the oppressor, and claim our dignity as human persons.

Spiritual reading: The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. (Brennan Manning)

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