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Bible Reflections View Comments

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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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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