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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 Zaccaria: At the same time that Martin Luther was attacking abuses in the Church, a reformation within the Church was already being attempted. Among the early movers of the Counter-Reformation was Anthony Zaccaria. His mother became a widow at 18 and devoted herself to the spiritual education of her son. He received a medical doctorate at 22 and, while working among the poor of his native Cremona in Italy, was attracted to the religious apostolate. He renounced his rights to any future inheritance, worked as a catechist and was ordained a priest at the age of 26. Called to Milan in a few years, he laid the foundations of three religious congregations, one for men and one for women, plus an association of married couples. Their aim was the reform of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy, religious and lay people. 
<p>Greatly inspired by St. Paul (his congregation is named the Barnabites, after the companion of that saint), Anthony preached with great vigor in church and street, conducted popular missions and was not ashamed of doing public penance. </p><p>He encouraged such innovations as the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate, frequent Communion, the Forty Hours devotion and the ringing of church bells at 3:00 p.m. on Fridays. </p><p>His holiness moved many to reform their lives but, as with all saints, it also moved many to oppose him. Twice his community had to undergo official religious investigation, and twice it was exonerated. </p><p>While on a mission of peace, he became seriously ill and was brought home for a visit to his mother. He died at Cremona at the age of 36.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, help me make my life more about you and less about me. May others see you in me—your image and likeness. Teach me ways to increase my time with you, my service to others, and my love for my family, for strangers, and for the poor. You are the light in the darkness. With each new day, may we be light to one another.

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