16 February 2020
Sirach 15: 15 – 20
1 Cor: 2:6 – 10
Matthew 5.17 – 37
Today’s Gospel is one which can cause a lot of confusion for people – if they read it literally. But it is not meant to be read in this fashion. Jesus is certainly NOT telling us to tear out our eyes or to cut off our hands.
No, what Jesus is calling for is a radical way of life. Yes, he’s nearly asking the impossible! But there are some people (not too many) who make choices which cause the rest of us to look on in wonder, even amazement and sometimes admiration. Jean Vanier and the work of the L’Arche community comes to my mind. And there are so many Irish missionaries and aid workers who leave aside the comforts of Irish life to walk with the poor, in Africa, South America, and Asia. They are in the frontline. Theirs is a radical choice to put others first.
You are also called to this radical way of life. And you can respond! Probably not all the time and always with a full heart, brimming over. But you can reach for it. How?
St Therese once said that all she wanted to do on earth was to do the ordinary things extraordinarily well. Can’t you start there? But in fact many of us are already doing that – the single parent doing their best to raise their children; the unemployed woman or man who gets involved in some voluntary work to help others in need; the mother who washes, cleans and cooks every day so that the family are looked after… the list is endless. You’re already doing it to some degree so you’re already responding to Jesus’ invitation to build God’s kingdom on earth.
No matter what I do (or fail to do) there are repercussions. What I must do each day is to make sure that anything I do or say does not have bad repercussions. Sometimes it’s as simple as keeping my mouth shut and not passing on that bit of gossip I heard down at the shops about a neighbour. What was it someone once said: ‘if you can’t say something good about someone, say nothing.’
But there is one particular admonition in the Gospel today which we might look at in a closer way, especially at this time in our history: “I say to you that the one who is angry with their brother or sister will be liable to judgment”. Anger is the source of so much evil in our world. If it is not dealt with properly it can lead on to hatred. How many times have we read in the papers of trial where the accused expresses remorse for their actions because it was done in the heat of anger.
Here in Ireland we are hearing that many people are angry with how things have turned out with the disappearance (or is it the death) of the Celtic Tiger? People losing their jobs, homes, unable to feed their families, pay bills, our young (and not so young) having to emigrate because there are no jobs. We cannot deny our anger.
There is a righteous anger (Jesus himself was sometimes angry about bad things he saw) but he was always in control of it. And he used that feeling, not to react and do bad, but to inspire him to try to make the situation better. And that, my sisters and brothers, might be a lesson to us in our present situation. We must not just remain angry but must look for ways to harness it for the better. It’s not for me to tell you how to do it. Each of us must decide what we think is best. But I have no doubt that if we harness our anger in a positive way – and not just remain in the ‘angry state’ – we will be better able to deal with our individual difficulties and also help to improve things for all of us. You could say that I’m suggesting a radical way to deal with anger!
I pray that you, I and everyone in our land will take up Jesus’ invitation to a radical way of life and so show forth to the world His power at work in us. Amen.
Lord Jesus, think on me, and purge away my sin
From earth-born passions set me free, and make me pure within.
May what is false within us before your Truth give way
That we may live to praise you, today and to the end.
(inspired by Synesius of Cyrene, c375-430)
Fr Martin Kavanagh, SMA