In today’s Gospel there’s probably something to make each of us wince.
It’s evidently an important passage, located as it is after the Beatitudes. In a sense, today’s Gospel might be a practical guide for living the beatitudes; but that makes it no more pleasant to hear.
If you feel you’ve never been convicted by this teaching, thank God! Life has blessedly preserved you from conflict. And while I’d acknowledge your co-operation with God’s grace, you can never afford to forget that it is God’s grace that has made the significant difference in your life. To congratulate myself in any of these areas would be like congratulating myself on a good game of solitaire: it’s not my skill or patience that won the game—I was just lucky in the shuffle of the cards!
On the other hand, if I find myself convicted or uncomfortable with any of the situations described by Jesus, let me not put myself down. I’ve grown to wonder whether I only do that—put myself down—to beat God to the punch and exert some control over how much I’m put down! That’s living in fear, not at all trusting in God.
God is not out to get me. This isn’t a checklist that qualifies or disqualifies me as a member of an exclusive club. What Jesus teaches here is what is good for me, to make God’s love concrete in my life. If I’m not there, I’m not being shown the door. No, I’m being invited to look at why, how I arrived where I am; and how, from there, and not from some ideal point, do I start moving closer to what Jesus indicates.
This would be offering my life to the truthful, life-giving scrutiny of the Holy Spirit, that hidden Wisdom of God, that Saint Paul describes to the Corinthians. Isn’t it that very Wisdom that most of us first encounter in the grace of repentance and receiving God’s merciful forgiveness? I mean that illuminating self-knowledge, that blessed caution that teaches us to moderate our reactions and strive harder. Doesn’t that Wisdom grow in us from the hard-learned lessons we’ve learnt from our mistakes?