In the reading from the Old Testament this Sunday we are advised to “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” In the second reading we are told to seek wisdom. We will need wisdom and we will need the holiness of God if we are going to accept and live this Gospel message.

From the Sermon on the Mount we are hearing a series of saying that begin with: “You have heard it said but I say to you.” There are two in this Gospel. First, “You have heard it said: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” Then Jesus tells us to offer no resistance: “if someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.” This is indeed challenging. The same is true of the second admonition: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is even more challenging.

Is it really possible to live these challenges in our world today? Is it at all realistic? We need to keep several things in mind. First, we are all precious in God’s eyes and each of us is worthy of dignity and respect. Please do not let this Gospel passage justify allowing others to abuse you. If you are in an abusive relationship, get out of it. Do not think you deserve no better. You do. No one has a right to take away your dignity.

Second, do allow this passage to temper your desire for revenge. Violence should not be met by violence. Violence should be confronted by love. This is not easy and the true challenge of this Gospel is the challenge to be who we are: the holy people of God, the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The Sermon on the Mount lays out a vision for following the way of Jesus Christ. The three chapters (five, six, and seven) of Matthew’s Gospel are worth reading in their entirety.

Of equal importance to hearing the words Jesus says is to meet the person who says them. Without a personal appreciation of Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with Him, these admonitions are not achievable. We need to constantly unclutter and purify our hearts if we are to love our enemies while not letting them walk all over us. A healthy appreciation of oneself as loved and lovable is the starting ground for entering into healthy relationships with others. And then a lively relationship with Jesus Christ will give us the strength and the insight we need to live on the cutting edge of love: the cliff of forgiveness.

Is it really possible to live these challenges in our world today? Is it realistic? What do you think?

May the Lord give you peace.

Fr. Jim

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