“These writing’s are based on specific readings listed for each particular day. Sometimes it might help to read the readings by clicking on the “UCCB daily readings link.” You might have to do a bit of searching to match the post’s date to a corresponding reading. Other times one can conveniently click on the link within the post. Sometimes they are there, and other times they are not. Of course one can simply read the post all by itself”
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
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 as well. Mt 5:38-48
This brief little saying can take on different meanings at different times. True, its truth is timeless and unwavering. Its circumstances or what the statement is gauged against continually change. Some days the eye and tooth are personal. Some days it is an individual that punches you. Some days it a street fight, and others it is a world war. Eye for eye can be a personal choice or national policy. What does that statement mean, and what is it intended to mean?
To many it is a statement of vengeance or revenge. If someone causes you pain, by right you have the right to retaliate. The statement though is not simply a justification to let fists fly. It is a statement of measure. If someone causes harm eye for eye limits the extent of retribution. In a legal sense the punishment must fit the crime. Eye for eye sets a limit on when an issue is resolved. It brings a conflict to a conclusion. But does it really solve the problem?
As I said this passage is interpreted differently at different times. Today I see the passage in the news and I read of it being applied not far from where the statement was written. In some parts of the world eye for eye is law. This law is dispensed exactly as written. Let’s offer an illustration. There was a woman who was blinded because someone tossed acid in her face. The court sentence was for the perpetrator to be blinded by acid dripped into his eye. An eye for an eye. That’s a true story. For the thief the amputation of a hand. The law is distributed without tolerance, it is prescribed exactly as written. Order is maintained by fear of retribution, but is anything resolved?
To Jesus, the answer is no. For a sin, a sin is returned. To Jesus evil is not met with evil. Evil can be confronted and defeated with truth. Sin is defeated with grace. Turn the other cheek. Fight evil with good. Injustice can be confronted with forgiveness. Ignorance with instruction. Brutality with kindness. To turn the other cheek, what does that mean? On one level it can be taken literally, it can simply mean turn the other way. It can imply a type of tolerance. In another way turn the other cheek can imply two sides, to look at both the good and bad. It can be to prosecute and also defend, to look at both sides and all angles. That is to approach an injustice with wisdom and understanding, not quickly or blindly.
With Christ is the radical philosophy that good always triumphs over evil. Always, always, and always. It is not the fastest way to resolve an issue, and the Jesus approach does not always serve as a deterrent. Jesus does not offer retribution, but instead solution. What good is accomplished by blinding the ignorant fool, especially if the punishment is not accompanied by education?
A blind fool is still a fool and a fool can always recruit another. For that woman that was blinded by a fool who behaved with cruel indifference in a society that often condones such actions. Certainly by treating him with the same, eye for eye, his faults are visible to others; but who else has benefitted? He offered injustice for injustice, just as the court has dealt out to him. That crime occurred in a land known for honor killings. It occurred in a land known for social injustice and wide spread poverty. It occurred in a land known for intolerance, a land known for dictatorship. It is a place where human rights violations are committed without the retaliation of government and often endorsed as tradition. Eye for eye occurs where one life is valued much higher than another. Places where fear rules and there us a fear of education, places where ignorance is perpetrated. It is where eye for eye is the law if the land, and that law is perpetrated through ignorance. It is a law that serves man and not God. When Jesus says turn the other cheek, people should listen. In that gesture is a defining characteristic of the Christian. It sets Christians apart. Yes, there is a bit of political commentary here.
The truth is that the law was intended to curb injustice and not perpetrate it. It is a law that was intended to allow for a better solution but ignorance and indifference, and hatred never let that law get beyond its eight words. There is the reason for Jesus’s speech, it helps us to expand ones vocabulary. Jesus allows compassion, and truth, and charity, and forgiveness, and empathy, and resolution, and justice, and tolerance, and education, and love enter into both the conversation and the solution. To Jesus it is more important to give sight to the blind, rather than further disable someone who cannot see clearly. It is more important to cure the cripple than to hobble them further, to restore the withered hand and not simply remove it. All of these come from examples of Christs healing and they all challenge an eye for an eye. Taking an eye for an eye is easy, any fool can do it. Restoring sight to the blind, that’s another story.. .
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” I noticed something today, and it was not my shadow. Six more weeks of winter, and it is snowing heavily.
I noticed that after Jesus makes this statement, the LORD gives many details on the law. Jesus gives strict interpretation of it, the Law. Mt 5:17-37 The Pharisees were the strictest interpreters of Jewish law, but Jesus often told His followers to be wary of them. Jesus often preached about the burden of the law, could that be one reason he gave this talk on obedience to it? Certainly, how to interpret law might be one of His objectives. Common arguments often battle between the letter versus the spirit of the law. Jesus’s emphasis, at least to this reader, is that the law is important but it is not everything. The Pharisees were fanatics on the law. Jesus says “unless your righteousness surpasses the Pharisees you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees argued the Torah and that was their domain. Let, me mention that the quote I gave is not the full quote. It is only the part that pertains to the Pharisees. They are the people concerned with the letter of the law, which is the Word of God.
The other part of the quote involves the scribes. “unless your righteousness surpasses the scribes you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes documented the law and they were employed by the temple. That is where their knowledge came from, they knew the letter of the law from writing the letter. Even though those scribes had a similar interest in the legalities as the Pharisees did, they were not colleagues of the Pharisees. Their relationship was somewhat antagonistic. Since they were temple employees, scribes were associated with that temples hierarchy of the Priests and their associates the Sadducees. Both were legal experts, but from different places. One from the Temple, and the other from the Synagogue. What is missing? Jesus said “I have not come to abolish but to fulfill.” What is missing to bring this law to fulfillment? This is what I saw that I find so much more important than a gophers shadow.
Later in the legal discussion Jesus instructs his disciples to reconcile their differences. Jesus says ( I quote) “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come to offer your gift.” There, hidden in the shadows, it what is missing to fulfil the law. The scribes worked at the temple where Priests accepted sacrifices from the people to be made to their God. To fulfil the law requires sacrifice, and Jesus is both the High Priest that accepts the sacrifice and the sacrifice itself. No amount of that law can be fulfilled without the sacrifice that is Jesus Christ’s Passion. That is something to remember as the season begins to shift (the gophers TRUE reminder) towards Lent. Lent is the season of the Passion of Christ.
This discussion on the fulfilment of the law also became visible in the Mass, the first part of the liturgy would be recognizable to the Pharisee. Its discussion of the Word is like theirs in the Synagogue. Jesus preached there often.The second part of the Mass is likened to what the scribes saw in the Temple, not word but sacrifice. Sacrifice. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” With His Passion, it is fulfilled.
I should remember to dig a hole and bury my Alleluia, it’s just before Lent and that is tradition. Some things are more important that seeing a shadow.
Scene 1, Act One (or,,an odd collections of random thoughts) ;
Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.
“The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Here is a story rich in imagery. A visualization of what is happening must be stressed, and after that imagination should run wild.
In the scene Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, walks through a door and into a house and in that house he is greeted by a woman and a daughter. Not an uncommon scene. The daughter is ill, and the woman asks for Jesus’s help. Here a dialogue between the two begins with a little bit of controversy. The scene begins with a woman a daughter and a house, but halfway through the story new elements are added to the set. The set now includes a table, some food, and a dog. The Son of God, a woman, a house, a daughter, a table, a dog, a discussion that includes a disagreement. How hard is it to imagine that? [The kitchen table, the dinner table. the stage is set.]
In the story the woman asks that Jesus cures her daughter of a demon, and Jesus replies that the children should be fed first and not the dogs. The translation of dog is debatable, some think the word really is “puppy!” The story traditionally is interpreted to be that Jesus came first to deliver the gospel message to the people of the covenant and not the gentiles. But why the imagery? Why children, puppies! , and food? I can understand the adult argument about priorities, but I also can understand children and puppies. I can especially understand a puppy’s insatiable appetite.[Uncle Paul suddenly walks across the room, exit stage left]. I can use my imagination. I can see the parents feeding the child, and can also see that child immediately taking that food and giving it to that puppy. I have seen this before. Many times before.This is a classic domestic situation, it speaks of the roles of parents, husband and wife. It also speaks of the innocence of the child. The parents in this little play differentiate between people, the child does not. To the child the puppy is as important as the parent or the chosen people or the gentiles. Imagine that innocence, no wonder Jesus said bring the children to Him.
She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone
[ think: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27) What is the nature of God?]
[think: Mary as “pre-eminent and as a wholly unique member of the Church”, declares her to be the Church’s “type and outstanding model in faith and charity”]
[im·ag·i·na·tion the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses:]
Is there any surprise that Jesus set up a squabble in this domestic situation, did the Son of God ever really intend not to heal that child? Throughout the gospel, had Jesus ever refused to heal anyone? Certainly before plucking some fruit from a tree man and woman would have seen the goodness of God, but in this little drama the consequences of Adam and Eves actions become visible. They do not simply see the goodness of God, evil and judgement also enters into their consciousness. They become good people and bad people with no shortage of bickering between them, and the cure for this dilemma is expressed or explained through the innocence of a child. Certainly the bickering between nations comes to mind today.
[rec·on·cil·i·a·tion: the restoration of friendly relations (between God and man, between mankind]
Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Today’s gospel Mt 5:13-16 is deceptively simple. It can be over embellished, or made more complex than it need be. Of that I might be guilty. A light that is intended to be seen is simple enough, of course Jesus is talking about faith being visible to the world. That visibility can be in action and in attitude. What more need one say, do all of the details need be spelled out? Does one need to be told how to behave as Christian, on how to make their religion known to the world? More on that later, for now I focus on the two comparisons, salt and light. Couldn’t they be replaced with word and deed? Back to a light, first one under a basket and hidden. Then another, atop a hill.
In the past I have wondered about these two light sources, why were they chosen and what as their reference? I did come up with a conclusion, one hidden and another glaringly visible. For the one tucked away and hidden or protected I envisioned the menorah of the Temple of Jerusalem. It was sacred, so sacred that after the Temples destruction it was changed to nine branches from seven. In its original form it could only reside in the temples sanctuary. It was a sacred light
The other light sat on a hilltop, the rebuild and extravagant city of Caesarea Philippi. That city was rebuilt and renamed to give honor to the emperor (I hope I got the city right, some fact checking might be in order.) There is my comparison, the spiritual light versus the neon glow of a city. How can a light hidden outshine one intended to be a showcase? I could have made the comparison simpler, as that hilltop city was rebuilt and enlarged to show glory to an emperor, the Jerusalem Temple was also enlarged to gain the cooperation of its patrons. Herod the Architect enlarged it, though not for spiritual reasons. He just liked to build things, he built the temple to the true God and also to pagan gods. To him the light that was important was the exterior one, the concrete and not the spiritual.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus, in his little sermon, tells that the light hidden should outshine those feats of architecture. That works of faith should outshine artistry. To bring this into contemporary terms, can the physical and spiritual be renamed corporal and spiritual. Corpus is bodily, that which enshrines a soul. Where is the importance placed? Both have needs and so there certainly good works that serve both the bodily and the spiritual, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. One meets people’s physical needs and the other their spiritual. Both make the light hidden become visible. Often though it is the flamboyant that gets the notice, be it a temple building or pagan city. Christ declared He is the way, the truth, and the LIGHT. A light made visible, but not merely by buildings and shrines.
[a corpus on a cross]
To the salt that loses its taste, it serves no good. Why salt though? First, salt is a preservative. It was also used in a covenant. Second it brings out flavor and adds character. It is a spice, it sets apart. What is the salt of Jesus’s followers? What was the salt of Judea? What set both apart from their neighbors? Their behavior, their beliefs, their worship, their attitudes, their customs and traditions and history? Could that be what gave them their flavor? In society, then and now, there often is the desire to dilute cultures to gain conformity. That was the reason Herod rebuilt the Temple, to placate the citizens to accept Roman rule. It was to make them Roman citizens. Good reason for Jesus to instruct them not to lose their flavor, to become complacent. How does that differ from today? Does a nation try and get its citizens to abandon their traditions and customs? I wonder?
To think of this season, the season after the Epiphany and before Lent. It is carnival in Europe, and South America, and in traditionally Catholic parts of the United States such as New Orleans. To the United States it is Football Season. To Catholics and Christians the Christmas Season runs from Christmas day to the Epiphany and winds down at The Feast of the Presentation of the LORD at the Temple. To the nation the “holiday season runs from after Thanksgiving through Christmas day. Salt that has lost its flavor? What feast has more notoriety in the United States, Candlemas or Groundhog Day? Candlemas celebrates the light of the world, did it remain hidden?
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time