Today Jesus really challenges and stretches us: No more “eye for an eye;” “offer no resistance;” “turn the other cheek;” “hand over your cloak;” “go the extra mile.” “Love your enemies (!) and pray for those who persecute you.” (It might be more realistic for us to think “irritate, annoy, or bug,” rather than “persecute.”) And then the impossible one: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God’s sun rises and the rain falls on all his sons and daughters.
Bible scholars do debate whether Jesus means all this literally or is perhaps using some exaggeration to make a point and to startle us into thinking. It seems to me, however, that it is pretty clear that Jesus is calling us to a distinctive way of life as his disciples. We are not just to be nice and kind. God’s loving is broad and deep and inclusive, and we are invited and challenged to move toward that kind of living and loving.
I think the words of the Eucharist capture this point well. After Jesus says, “this is my body given and this is my blood poured out, he says, that we should do this same thing in memory (and imitation) of him. We can only do this with God’s grace and the help of a faith community.
As we enter in to the season of lent this week, I invite you ponder what we have heard in the last few weeks:
We are a Franciscan body of Christ, embracing all people though liturgy and service.
We are a community built on the word.
We are called to be light in the world.
We are called to be salt for the earth.
We are stretched into living and loving as Jesus did.
On Palm Sunday, we will have a concert with singer Tajci Cameron entitles “I Thirst,” taken form the words of Jesus on the cross. As a community, during Lent we invite you to reflect on your deep desires, your hungers and thirsts.
What do you desire with all your heart?