17 November 2006

Unnatural, impractical, and downright dangerous

St. Elizabeth of Hungary: 1 John 3.14-18 and Luke 6.27-38
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Serra Club Mass and Church of the Incarnation

The naivety of what Jesus is asking of us here is almost laughable. Truly absurd. The degree of holiness required to accomplish this level of humility is staggering. Love those who hate us. Lend without expecting or pursuing repayment. Stop making judgments. Doing just these three would mean opening ourselves to national destruction, the collapse of our economy, and the collapse of our judicial system. It would seem that the sensible people in Jesus’ homily are the sinners! They love those who love them and defend themselves against their enemies. They expect debts to be repaid and they repay their debts. They work at making sure justice is served as a deterrent to future crime. Frankly, I would rather live in a society run by the sinners—it will be ordered and predictable. What Jesus is asking of us here seems to me to be beyond the limits of human possibility; what he is asking is unnatural, impractical, and probably dangerous.

If what he is asking is even a little unnatural, impractical, or probably dangerous, why does he think we can measure up to his standard? Why would it occur to him to say out loud that we should—as a matter of our holiness—take on flipping the moral and legal expectations of our day? Some might say he’s asking us to flip human nature and go against our primitive evolutionary imperatives of survival! He wants us to fight our genetic heritage. There is only one way for us to follow Christ on this one given what he is asking of us. And he knows that one way: we must die and become new men and women in him.

John writes, “We know that we have passed from death to life b/c we love our brothers.” We love our brothers—our sisters and brothers in Christ—and therefore we know that we have passed from death to life. The love we have for one another is sufficient evidence for concluding that we died and yet live, that we went from life to death to life again. And how did we come to love one another given all these survival of the fittest genetic issues we carry around in our DNA? John again, “The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us.” We came to know the love required to rewrite our genetic code, to rearrange our DNA, if you will, through the heroic sacrifice of Calvary, the once for all bleeding of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

It is Easter morning! The empty tomb is the laboratory of our Christian genome project—we are edited, revised, undone and redone, rewired, and now we walk out of that tomb not just refurbished and mark 50% off, we walk out LOVED by Love Himself and there is nothing for us to do but love right back by loving those He Himself loves. What was impossible for us is natural for Him and what is natural for Him is now supernatural for us b/c He loved us first. We are to love our enemies, our debtors and our creditors, those who judge us and those we judge, those who strike us and those we want to strike, we are to do all these not simply b/c Jesus asks us to but b/c we are becoming Christ in the Father’s love. We have much to endure and much to gain.

Want to know how to live these absurd requirements? Let’s pretend: here we are at the end of the age, standing before the Judge of all creation. On his right the white fire of the heavenly staircase taking saints to the banquet. On his left a scorched hole, stench of seared flesh, and the naying of goats forever lost. Time for you to pick the scale with which he will measure your immortal soul. Will you pick the Measure of Justice or the Measure of Mercy? Choose carefully: “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:22 AM

    Whew! Looks like I've got some work to do! Good one, Father!