Years ago a parishioner who was not a Catholic but who was at Mass every Sunday with his family told me what he expected and hoped for from a Sunday sermon. He said ‘I want to be challenged even to take one step, even one baby step, beyond where I was when I walked into the church. I want to be challenged to be a better man, a better husband, a better father.
These series of teachings we hear in today’s gospel offer each one of us such a challenge. We hear these same challenges year after year, gospel reading after gospel reading. The question is have we accepted the challenge?
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth was taught to prevent an individual wrong from developing into a tribal feud. Keep it one on one. But Jesus challenges us to not to respond in kind to any hurt or slight, but to be willing to work things out with people who abuse our good will, people who take advantage of us in business. Jesus challenges us to show those who wrong us cheat us that we will not be lowered to their level, that we and they are meant for better things. Are we willing to accept his challenge to move on and be free of the burdens of resentment and ill will?
Love your enemies and those who do you harm. That’s always been a hard one. Doesn’t ‘don’t get angry get even’ sound better? What do we gain by bearing grudges and resentments year after year? I forget who is supposed to have said, ‘I destroy my enemies by making them my friends. Can we take even a baby step and move beyond our grudges and memories of past hurts that only wear down and even wear us out? Aren’t we meant for better things?
Be prefect as your heavenly father is perfect. The word perfect for us means faultless. This we are not. Our heavenly father makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends his rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
The same sun shines on all of us, the same rain falls on all of us the difference is in how we accept these gifts of sun and rain. Think of communities hit by what we call natural disasters – we see neighbourhoods wiped out by floods or tornados. Homes are destroyed, livelihoods wiped out, good people killed or seriously injured. In the midst of all this we see neighbour helping neighbour, stranger being there for stranger. These things can and often do, bring out the best in people.
Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is a challenge to each one of us to take the road less travelled. The less travelled road is a road so different from the one we so often walk that leads to getting even, getting back at those who have wronged us, a road on which we don’t forgive and we don’t forget.
Will we that take the road that leads us to a life of loving and forgiving those who have wronged us in any way. A road less travelled on which we meet and can care for the poor, hungry, homeless of our own little worlds. This less travelled road brings us into the kingdom of God and fellow ship with Jesus our Christ. The question for all of us is, are we willing to take that one step along this road that moves us beyond where we were and who we were when we came to Mass this morning?