Readings: Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18I Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew5:38-48
Saint Matthew’s Gospel continues to teach us from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This is one of the best known sections of all the Gospels. Going the extra mile and turning the other cheek: we’ve grown up with those phrases. The line from the Old Testament, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth might never be remembered by Christians except that St. Matthew quotes it here. It has become our Christian heritage.
And that may be precisely the problem. This is all too well known. Do we take it seriously at all? Apparently Jesus meant it. He wanted his disciples to do what he taught. Since actions always speak louder than words, Jesus knew that he would have to leave an example. Words are cheap. If you remember your Latin: verba sonant, exempla tonant. Words sound, actions thunder. I have given you an example , that as I have done, you also must do. And then: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Or again: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.
Some people in every generation take Jesus seriously in what he says–but so few, so very few! It is as St. Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth: If anyone among you considers yourself wise in this age, you need to become a fool so as to become wise…The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. And we could say, vice versa: The wisdom of God is foolishness to people in the world. Which will I be?
When I decided as a teenager that God was calling me to join a Trappist Monastery, I upset a lot of people. My favorite aunt, Nora, was bitterly opposed to my coming here to Berryville to be a monk. “If he wanted to be a Jesuit, I wouldn’t object so much, but you can’t let him be a Trappist!”, she bawled out to my mother. This was all hard enough for my mother as it was and she didn’t need Aunt Nora blaming her. Mom consoled herself that I never finished anything I had ever started, so it wasn’t likely that I’d last here, either…
To the world, becoming a contemplative monk is a pure waste. It’s foolishness or just plain selfish; but I felt I was really meant to do this. This is what I believed–and believe–God wants me to do. And I wanted it so bad that I ended up staying after all (the only time my mother was ever wrong about me). To be a fool for Christ is very different from being stupid. There are people who do stupid things for God but they are really doing them for themselves and not for God at all. That’s not the same thing as being a fool for Christ. God’s foolishness is true wisdom.
Last November, when Rush Linbaugh publicly accused Pope Francis of being a Marxist because of his teaching about economic injustices in the world in his exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis didn’t hesitate to reply. He said, “I am not a Marxist; this is pure Catholic social teaching that I have stated. But I do have good friends who are Marxists, so I don’t take that as an insult.”
Phrases from the Gospel stick in our memories because of their vivid imagery but even more because of their resonance within our hearts. To the world they may seem utter foolishness; but to a fool for Christ they are the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s sake, choose wisely.