The texts set for today are among the most forceful in the whole New Testament, and the points they make among the most familiar. For that reason they have been taken up by preachers from earliest times, such as desert fathers. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need saying, again and again, and with the greatest forcefulness.
Paul says to the Romans: “Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, love one another with genuine affection …. Bless those who persecute you … do not be haughty … do not claim to be wiser than you are … if your enemies are hungry, feed them ….”
And Matthew’s Gospel is just as simple, direct, and difficult to carry out. Peter sees this at once, and Jesus speaks to him with the greatest forcefulness, so much so that Jesus call Peter “Satan”.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves …. Those who want to save their life will lose it.”
Jesus ends “ The Son of Man is to come with his angels … and repay everyone for what has been done.”
The Gospel last sentence is a great puzzle to us “there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Were his followers really forewarned about the Resurrection ? It seems the answer is yes, they were.
There may be puzzles like this throughout the Gospels, indeed throughout the Holy Bible itself. But that doesn’t take away the forcefulness:
“Bless those who persecute you, bless, and do not curse . live in harmony, do not be haughty, associate with the lowly. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Never avenge yourselves …. If your enemies are hungry and thirsty, give them food and drink”
Living the religious life in community, opportunities for wrong doing on these lines are reduced to the minimum – but wrong doing happens often enough.
Living the life of a committed Christian in a parish reduces opportunities for wrong doing to a minimum, but they’re there just the same.
Living the life of full or part time ministry, such opportunities are there indeed.
“Really that is just too much, one step too far, I’ve just had enough, they need to know who’s in charge” – we find such phrases coming to our lips as the years go by.
MAY GOD FORBID. Let us remember the detailed teaching of Paul and of Jesus himself.