Righteousness: loving

sermon-on-the-mount43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. Continue reading

Righteousness: extra mile

sermon-on-the-mount40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

Again Jesus returns to the legal setting of the courtroom. This time to describe more than what the law commands, but what God proposes as true righteousness. Continue reading

Righteousness: against the grain

sermon-on-the-mountJesus’ continues to teach with authority (but I say to you…) to his disciples even as the crowd listens in (cf. 5:1-2). The fifth example used by Jesus (vv.38-41) is one that perhaps most goes “against the grain” of our human reaction. Here Jesus challenges the idea of retribution, revenge, a tit-for-tat model of justice – and the means by which people seek redress in judicial arenas.  For some communities, these verses form the key verses for their belief in non-violent resistance. Continue reading

Righteousness: context

sermon-on-the-mount38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. Continue reading

Sanctuary

emeralda_and_quasimodoIf you’ve read Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame – or seen the classic 1939 film adaptation starring Charles Laughton, or the very faithful 1996 Disney animated musical version – you’ll recognize this dramatic cry. Quasimodo, the misshapen and monstrous bell-ringer of the Paris cathedral, has just swooped down from the belfry to seize the unjustly condemned Gypsy, Esmeralda, from the fiery stake. Quasimodo stands on the cathedral balcony, crying “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” He is invoking an age-old protection offered by churches – refuge from the law for criminals. Continue reading

Being Perfect

matthew-5_48“…be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect…” That seems like a tall order, trying to be perfect. And if you think of it as being without flaw, spot, or blemish, then you are correct. It is above our pay grade. But then again, “be perfect” does not seem like a suggestion. It appears it is a command from Jesus.

The word “perfect,” telios, is a Greek word which speaks of wholeness, a completeness, a certain end point, goal or destiny that is our calling. There is always a future element about it. “…be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Our destiny, our divine calling – a project for this lifetime. A project that with the grace of God is ours to work towards, even if its fulfillment is in the life to come. Continue reading

Timeless Advice

CONFESSIONOne of the all-time best sellers in the spiritual life is St. Francis de Sales’ “Introduction to the Devout Life.” Here are some of tips the Saint offers to help make a good confession:

The saint recommends regular and frequent confession. He encourages confession, “although your conscience is not burdened with mortal sin; for in confession you do not only receive absolution for your venial sins, but you also receive great strength to help you in avoiding them henceforth, clearer light to discover your failings, and abundant grace to make up whatever loss you have incurred through those faults.” Continue reading

But I say to you: oaths

sermon-on-the-mountA Teaching About Oaths. 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’34 But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;35 nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.36 Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.37 Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one. Continue reading

But I say to you: divorce

sermon-on-the-mountA Teaching About Divorce. 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

The teaching of the Jesus (here in Matthew) in relation to the Law may be clarified by considering the following history of the tradition of Scripture regarding divorce. Continue reading

But I say to you: adultery

sermon-on-the-mountA Teaching About Adultery.  27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. Continue reading