Over the years I have often been asked about a passage in Matthew’s Gospel: “So be perfect,* just as your heavenly Father is perfect“. (Mt 5:48). Most people just wonder how in the world we could ever be perfect like God. Kind of a non-starter, so why try. Not only is it possible – it is commanded by Christ and empowered by his grace.
Be perfect, telios, the Greek word does not mean to be without sin, spot or blemish, but rather speaks of wholeness, a completeness, a certain end point, goal or destiny that is ours – in the end. In other words, to look to what God intends for us: our destiny, our divine calling – a project for this lifetime. A project that with the grace of God is ours in the here and now – and forever. A project that will reach “perfection” in heaven as we are then fully, wholly and completely what we were intended to be. Continue reading
I am not normally given to posting op-ed pieces from online sources. But there was an op-ed piece that caught my attention, more specifically, this:
….anger cannot be the sole fuel propelling us on life’s journey. We also need love, for without it, we are no better than those who fear us. To live with anger is to live powerless. That’s not to say the oppressed should never be angered by the actions of their oppressor. Only that anger can spark a movement, but it should not order its steps. Not if the goal of the movement is peace.
…not if the goal of the movement is peace… Continue reading
This coming Sunday marks our journey in Ordinary Time, the 20th Sunday in Year C. You can read a complete commentary on the Sunday Gospel here.
49 “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! 50 There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53) Continue reading
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
It is Sunday evening, the third day after Jesus died. The disciples are gathered together in fear and confusion. Unsure of their next step. The one they thought Messiah, dead and buried – executed like a common criminal and lying in a tomb. Their leader gone and what remained was an overwhelming sense of shame because they knew they had deserted Jesus in his hour of need. And now they lived in fear. Fear of the next knock on the door. Fear of having left everything to follow Jesus…now what? A fear that seeps into the deepest regions of their being, hardening hearts and stiffening limbs; locking doors. Continue reading
Peace and Division. 51 Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
To the question whether Jesus came to bring peace most of us would unhesitatingly reply ‘Yes’. But Jesus’ “No, I tell you” is emphatic (ouchi). There is, of course, a sense in which he does bring peace, that deep peace with God which leads to true peace among people. But in another sense his message is divisive – such is the effect of prophetic speech. In this Jesus gives a fulfillment in the prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:35). But one must note that the division is really caused – not by the prophetic speech – but by the decisions one makes because of that speech. This has already been seen when people are called to decide if Jesus is of God or of Satan (Luke 11:14-20). Those who see Jesus must decide rightly lest “the light in you not become darkness” (11:35). Continue reading
The idea of peace in the Hebrew Bible is šālôm whose core meaning is “to be hale, whole, complete.” In one form or another the notions of wholeness, health, and completeness inform all the variants of the word. Peace is not simply the absence of war or conflict. Peace is a positive notion, a notion with its own goal and ends. The Jewish writers tended to use the term primarily for interpersonal or social relations where it comes very close to meaning “justice” and is connected to the covenant with God. Just as the covenant is gift, so too when justice is done it is seen as God’s gift to the people, and the prosperity (šālôm) comes to the people when they live faithfully under God’s covenant. Continue reading