So Jesus, the master teacher, continues his Sermon on the Mount today: teaching us how to be faithful and intentional disciples.
But before we get to Jesus' lesson for the day: for the past few weeks we have been hearing from another master teacher: St. Paul in his first letter to the Church in Corinth.
Paul has been urging the members of this young church to avoid the "wisdom of the world."
Scripture scholars have helped me to understand the "wisdom" of the ancient Roman society the Corinthians would have faced:
It was decadent: pleasure ruled.
It was self-centered: take care of yourself, have as much fun as you can - and let everyone else take care of themselves.
And it was corrupt: do anything you must do to get ahead - even if means betraying friends, neighbors, or even family.
So if St. Paul was writing to the Church of St. Patrick in our day- what would he classify as today's "wisdom of the world?" Is it much different than ancient Rome?
A quick look at what is fed our minds and hearts on television will give us a quick read on the wisdom of our North American world.
Afternoon soap operas and evening dramas consistently highlight marital infidelity and taking revenge on offended parties.
Participants and audiences go crazy about guessing the correct price of a dream vacation on numerous game shows -- and how about the show named: Family Feud. . .
24 hour news channels certainly give us the message its okay to put people down with whom we disagree. Even get aggressive with them if we need to.
It's easy to find adults working into a frenzy about a bad call or some slight given a sports team or player. Not only on tv – but in games their children are playing in. . .
Even cooking channels give us chefs leaving the kitchen in despair and enraged -- after being chopped from competition.
And who could ever achieve the life of Jersey, the Kardashians, or Desperate Housewives. . .
The wasteland of television certainly reveals something about the wisdom of our world -- and I haven't even touched commercials that tell us we can have much better lives if we lost some weight, drove the right car - and used the right dish soap –
as long as we don't put it in the dishwasher!!
Instead, like with the Corinthians -- Paul would insist that we embrace the wisdom of God, most clearly present in the sacrificial love found in the cross of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Now on to Jesus, who, as he did last week, gives us some examples of how we can embrace his new law of love-- given to us in the Beatitudes.
Jesus speaks first about responding to violence: after all, the meek will inherit the land - and the peacemakers will be called children of God. . .
So the Law found in the Old Testament says: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But Jesus says: when someone strikes you on your right cheek – turn the other one as well.
Now Jesus in telling us to turn the other cheek: is not telling battered women, or anyone else, to continue putting up with abuse.
Rather, he is telling us to find creative ways to respond to insults and injuries. Turning the other cheek gives the violent person a chance to reconsider their past action before they do it again.
Next, Jesus' advice involves a little humor. If a poor person is taken to court because someone wants their tunic --- they should give over their coat as well:
standing there naked the action just might embarrass the one who is trying to take advantage of a weaker person.
Roman soldiers often humiliated Jewish residents by forcing them to carry their packs for a mile.
If then, a Jew freely offers to carry the pack for two miles -- he or she demonstrates that they depend on God, not on the power of the rude soldier.
Jesus continues the radical nature of discipleship by urging those who follow him to be generous to those who want to borrow and not worrying about repayment.
Jesus also gives us probably his most challenging way of embracing the cross. The Old Law says you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemies – but Jesus new law says: love your enemies.
He's not talking about having warm feelings for terrorists who want to murder or spread mayhem.
Jesus is calling us to want the best for everyone, even for those who hate us.
Jesus then calls us to be perfect, not in the sense that we will be morally faultless in our daily conduct -- although that would be a noble thing:
but he is calling us to be perfect in the sense that we try to love as God loves: indiscriminately, generously, and with abandonment.
Yes it is easy to love those who will return our favors or invite us to dinner after we invite them to our table. But we all know it is more difficult to love when we know we will never be repaid in any way.
In rejecting the wisdom of this world -- Jesus isn't asking us to become doormats. Nor does St. Paul - whom no one would consider a doormat!
St. Francis of Assisi taught us the way of being a channel of God's peace. And Martin Luther King proved that responding in non-violent ways was the best way to secure civil rights.
The same was true of Mahatma Gandhi.
It is much more difficult to embrace the wisdom of the cross than to embrace the wisdom of the world which often promotes violence, hatred, betrayal, greed, and misunderstanding.
But IF we have the courage to embrace the wisdom of the cross-- then we will truly be holy and the temple of God.
We have done many things in this Church building to enhance our worship space. . . But the real temple dwells not in this building --but in this parish community -- in each one of us -- especially when we take seriously the wisdom of the cross and trust in the transforming love of Jesus Christ –
who died not just for the righteous -- but for everyone.
Through our embracing the cross – we become holy just as God is holy. A good thought to carry with us into Lent – where new life awaits us
Moments in time...