Friday, June 20, 2008

And we wonder.

June 17, 2008
Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
1 Kings 21:17-29
Matthew 5:43-48

I am a fan of Baz Lurhmann's movie version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". There is a great scene where John Leguizamo playing Tibult, sneers into the camera and says, "Peace. I hate the word, as I hate hell and all Montagues". It is a chilling line that defines his character who loves the tension and violence of his world. Every time I watch the movie I am struck by how it reveals the reality that some people just won't let go of the conflict and fighting.

We are continuing with Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and like yesterday, Jesus' words turn popular thought on it's head. Yesterday I talked about the fact that it is far too easy today to label anyone we disagree with as the enemy and that Jesus is talking about a revolution of the heart. This revolution requires that we see beyond the labels and recognize that we are all God's children.

Today's text moves us along to an even more blunt teaching from Jesus. If the teaching that an "eye for an eye" must end and that revenge is wrong, then it is also sin for us to hate our enemy. In fact, God's love demands that we love our enemies. What!? How can Jesus ask such a thing!? Surely he asks too much! Simply put, no he doesn't. Jesus asks only that which he himself is willing to do.

Jesus' radical teachings are often dismissed as being only possible by Jesus because he is the Son of God. That dismissal denies the human Jesus and negates the immense sacrifice Jesus made. Jesus, fully God but fully human, had to face the same trials you and I face. Jesus was subject to the same emotions and pains. We have no problem with the human Jesus suffering on the cross because we can all experience pain. But if the fully human Jesus could love those who wanted to kill him, the enemy, then shouldn't we human beings, us Christians be willing to do the same?

If we keep invoking an "eye for an eye" and keep believing it is okay to hate "the enemy" then no wonder peace is always outside our grasp. If we refuse to follow Jesus' teachings then how do we expect anything to change? If we insist on holding on to our hatred and fear instead of forgiving and loving then we need to stop being so surprised that things keep getting worse. Jesus has given us the solution and we must practice what he preached.

So simple but we insist on making it hard.