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Through your generaous contributions to the annual appeal, the Diocese of Tulsa was able to provide 77 parishes in Eastern Oklahoma with services and ministry resources that no single parish could provide for itself. Together, we're sharing our faith for the better of all. The annual appeal request will be February 18-19 at St. Francis Xavier or by visiting dioceseoftulsa.org/annualappeal.
February 19, 2017
The gospel this week continues immediately from last week, in fact, it is part of the same passage. Scripture scholars call these sayings of Jesus, “anti-thesis”. Jesus begins by saying, “you have heard” and then he says, “but I say to you.” These sayings can be hard to hear but we must go beyond emotional response to understand these sayings. First, Jesus begins this passage by saying, “I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” This statement sets the whole tone. First, Jesus is not simply speaking as another rabbi who is offering an interpretation; he is speaking as one with authority to make law. In other words, he is showing his divine power for only God can add to the law, since he is its author. Jesus takes the law to a new level. Law is no longer to be seen as something that governs external behaviors, it must now be rooted in the heart, the very depth of our personhood, if we are to be true disciples. The whole of Scripture is a process of God revealing himself to first the people of Israel and then to all people as the one true God who calls us to share his life by sharing ours with his in the uniquely personal reality called love. At its root, love is a choice to share one’s life with another. It is a choice to choose to act for the sake of others rather than our own self interests. Love is also a process; it takes time and effort to learn to love, to give ourselves to others. Our lives are a mix of self interest and giving ourselves for the sake of others. Jesus calls us to go beyond what the pagans, or any human being does. We are called to be perfect, as the Father is perfect. This perfection is choosing to love in every aspect of our lives. It can seem that Jesus tells us to be wimps. For instance, if someone slaps your cheek, offer the other. In fact, he is calling for us to show a strength of character that will conquer our worst oppressor. In ancient times, it was a sign of power to backhand someone, using your right hand. If a person turns the other cheek, then the person will have to use the palm of the right hand to slap, which was considered a ‘girly’ slap, a sign of weakness. This one example gives a principle: you have power over your worst enemy if you choose the response of love rather than vengeance. The only thing someone can take from you is the things of this world, or your time. These things will pass any way. The true disciple recognizes that no one can take the important thing away from us; the authentic loving relationship with God. It is the one thing that goes beyond this physical existence. This teaching of Jesus is hard because it requires that we choose to act in a way that goes against instinct. It requires that we also understand that the blessings of God does not mean that life will be easy or pleasant. As Jesus says, the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. It seems unfair that unjust people prosper, quite often at the expense of others. If justice were a reality that could only be satisfied in this world, that would be true and we would be wise to get even. However, we believe that final justice comes before the throne of Christ in glory. That is where our suffering of injustice here will have its reward. Let us strive to make this sometimes difficult teaching of Jesus our way of life. It can be done if we remember that final justice for us is not on earth but before the Divine Throne.
"Reading scripture is like rain on dry, hard land.
It takes a while to soak in." -Father Ken Harder.