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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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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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