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Jesus Means What He Says, Like It or Not
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014
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Jesus were trying to establish himself as a popular preacher, we might think he’s going about it the wrong way. If today’s Gospel were a current news item or someone’s blog post, we can just imagine the angry comments that would follow it. “What do you mean we’re supposed to love our enemies?” “Are you saying we have to love terrorists?” “People are too worried about being politically correct. I should be able to say whatever I want.”

But Jesus was never much interested in popularity contests or good ratings. He was interested only in the truth. And that truth was, as the old hymn says, “the truth sent down from above.” Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Compromise simply wasn’t an option for him. Nor is it for us.

The people of Jesus’s day had as many prejudices and stereotypes as anyone in our own society. Jews and Samaritans, Romans and Palestinians, Greeks and Galileans—the Gospels and Paul’s letters are filled with examples of one group setting itself against another over politics, over religious rules and rituals, over language and way of life.

Those listening to Jesus would have reacted as predictably as we would to these words. And there’s no way to soften them. Jesus says what he says. We can choose to believe it, we can even choose to follow it. What we can’t do is deny that he said it.

Too often we deal with our natural discomfort with the high standard of the Gospel by trying to explain it away or to soften it. We pretend that the hard sayings aren’t part of Bible. We ignore those passages that make us uneasy, that threaten our preconceived ideas, that upset our comfortable worldview.

One of the great gifts to our faith that the Catholic lectionary provides is that the wisdom of the Church has chosen for us the texts that we will read and hear on any given Sunday. Priests and deacons don’t have the option of choosing the text for their sermons. And the lectionary is arranged to cover all of the Gospels, not just the stories that we like to hear.

Jesus doesn’t tell his followers that their lives are going to be easy. Nor does he tell them that they will always get their way. He frequently reminds them that they will be persecuted. The beginning of this Sermon on the Mount that we’ve been hearing for the past several Sundays even says, “Blessed are you when they persecute you.” We shouldn’t be surprised, then, when his words make us uncomfortable. There’s simply no way around the hard sayings in the Gospel.

Preachers and psychologists are fond of saying that love is not an emotion, it’s an act of the will. Teachers and managers remind those who whine and complain, “That’s why they call it work.” The same thing is true of faith. When we make a commitment, whether it’s to another person, a community, or God, there will be times when keeping that commitment is not going to be easy and probably isn’t going to feel all warm and fuzzy. The important thing is that we stick to the commitment we’ve made.

As we go through this week, we might think about the hard words of Jesus. Instead of arguing those words or trying to explain them away, simply say, “Yes.”

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		<p>Clement of Rome was the third successor of St. Peter, reigning as pope during the last decade of the first century. He’s known as one of the Church’s five “Apostolic Fathers,” those who provided a direct link between the Apostles and later generations of Church Fathers. </p>
		<p>His <em>First Epistle to the Corinthians </em>was preserved and widely read in the early Church. This letter from the bishop of Rome to the Church in Corinth concerns a split that alienated a large number of the laity from the clergy. Deploring the unauthorized and unjustifiable division in the Corinthian community, Clement urged charity to heal the rift. <br /></p>
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