Because of his schedule, Fr Jim sent this to me early and then I post it late. How does that work? Best laid plans, I guess…..reyanna\
•Leviticus 19: 1-18 * I Corinthians 3: 16-23 * Matthew 5: 38-48•
Weekly Scripture Readings” 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today we continue that small portion of Matthew’s gospel commonly referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount.” There are many layers in these three chapters. They summarize the essential elements Matthew’s community remembered as the core of Jesus’ teaching. That core was “the reign of God“ — God’s new reality” emerging in our world.
In the portion of his teaching proclaimed here today, Jesus quoted an ancient guideline designed to break cycles of increasing violent — “an eye for an eye.” As Gandhi said, “that may have stopped the spirals of violence from snowballing, but it also created a lot of blind people.” Matthew’s Jesus invites us to circumvent the spirals of violence that are so deeply embedded in every human culture. He is inviting us to become more fully human and alive.
I presume most of us are so familiar with this text that we can recite portions of it by memory.
That is good. So perhaps it is sufficient for me to try to illustrate how his invitation to be more fully human and more fully alive is lived out today in our own culture.
Ten years ago a tragedy occurred in the Amish village of West Nickel Mines, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A 33 year-old gunman entered the one room school house. He took hostages and shot eight out of ten young girls, killing five, and then committed suicide. In the midst of their grief over this violent loss, the Amish community didn’t cast blame or point fingers. They forgave the killer, and reached out with compassion to his family in their grief.
In 2015, nine members of an African-American Church in South Caroline were in their church studying the Bible. A 21 year-old white supremacist entered the room. The group welcomed him. For a time he joined them in their Bible study. Then he pulled a gun and shot them one by one. He was arrested. Three days later there was a bail-bond hearing. Several family members of the victims were present. One by one told the shooter, “I forgive you.”
When we hear of such responses to these tragedies, most of us feel stunned. Their responses are stunning! Those people are “light” in the darkness. They are “salt” in a culture that is obsessed with violence. They are “Christians” — people in whom Christ lives!!
For many years I have struggled to personally embrace a nonviolent life. There is still so much I am unwilling to do.
Recently I was visiting Archbishop Hunthausen. He shared a lot of what happened to him in Seattle. In my opinion, the way he was treated by John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger was “unchristian,” to say the least. In our conversation Bishop Hunthausen referred to them as “my friends.” My heart is not that large!
There is a person who is professionally significant in my life. I was, in my opinion, treated very badly by this person. I confronted him in an honest and caring manner. His defensive response left me feeling no respect for him. If we meet I am civil, but have no warmth in my greeting. I have discussions with my spiritual director about how I am not handling this as I should. I have not yet found it within myself to regard this person as “my friend.” I know what I ought to do to be truly nonviolent. I pray that I gradually will love enough to do it.
I know the real issue that I must confront is my own false self. I know I will be free of violence only when I am sincerely open to a more just and brotherly life with this other person. The words of Matthew’s Jesus challenge me. “If you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?”
I am still trying to imitate Christ and be authentically “Christian” by embracing a nonviolent life. I share my story with you hoping to encourage you to do the same. If you struggle to do so, be honest with yourself about yourself and persist in asking for the courage you need.