Recently we had the centenary celebrations of our parish school Holy Family. There have been two masses as part of the celebrations on Friday the 7th and last Friday 14th. The Mass for the whole school community was on the 7th and during this I came across the a P3 class register from 1974 yes forty years ago with my name in it. It was an eye-opener as I think about all the various things and people that have passed through my life over the past 40 years with some of them now deceased. Also last Sunday we had the celebration of the anointing of the sick which is a highlight in our Parish year, a highlight if you can call it that because you know so many of the people present and that many of them won’t be here next year. It is a sobering thought when you think about it so many of those present both young and not so young might not be there next year and the youngest there was a few months old !!!
In this weekends readings we are told not only to be holy, but perfect as well! We are also told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This is really hard stuff especially as I live in BELFAST NORTHERN IRELAND, that said anything that is worth doing is usually the hard thing to do the out of the ordinary thing. Do you think that Jesus is going a bit too far in today’s selection from the Sermon on the Mount?
Last week he said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” That sounded pretty extreme, but we know about the Mediterranean peoples custom of exaggeration to make a point. That Is what he is also doing today when he advises turning the other cheek; volunteering to go the extra mile when pressed to one; or lending to anyone who asks? If that weren’t enough, what about loving enemies and praying for persecutors? Then, to make it still more difficult, our selection closes with, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Will people in the pews and that means you and me just shrug our shoulders and figure Jesus is wildly impractical, or that what he says must have been applicable “back then” – but not in the 21st century? Well in our situations of life and living I think that these stories can be applied today in our daily lives. Many people carry scars through life, refusing to let them heal until they have settled accounts with other people. Feuds, vendettas and–grudges are nurtured in parishes, in streets and even in families. Perhaps the most difficult words we pray today and every day are those words found in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That archaic word, trespass, means to cross the line. When we say the Our Father we are saying that we will forgive those who cross the line of common decency so that we also might be forgiven for any ways that we have crossed the line.
If we refuse to forgive, if we demand the law of talons, an eye for an eye, if we desire vengeance more than Christ’s presence, then we are refusing to accept Jesus Christ himself. Christianity is continually reforming and renewing itself. Christian society must continually scrutinize its actions to see if it is living up to the standards set by the Lord. Consider slavery. It took almost nineteen hundred years for Christians to recognize that slavery was incompatible with Christianity. It will take many more years for Christians to eliminate the various ways the law of talons has been embedded into our culture. But the standard is there. The standard for what is Christian and what is not Christian is the Law of the New Kingdom, the Sermon on the Mount, the Word of God. Let us not be afraid to do what Jesus asks of us in this Gospel reading and that is to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Or at least let us try to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us and to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.