Daily Gospel Reflection for June 16, 2014

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Today’s Gospel: Matthew 5:38-42

This Gospel passage is foreign to me. Not foreign as in, “delicious French baguettes still warm from the bakery!” Foreign as in, “Let’s have sea worms for dinner!” It doesn’t beckon me to some wonderful land. It beckons me to a strange, scary place I don’t want to go.

I have heard people – wise, learned, holy people – tame this passage. The tame version is difficult enough: Pray for your enemies, keep an even temper, look for that creative third way to resolve conflicts. If I manage even the domesticated version of this Gospel, that’s a pretty big day for me, spiritually speaking.

But I don’t think our Lord means for us to stop there, and declare ourselves fit for the Kingdom of Heaven because we managed not to throw a temper tantrum when the waiter gets the order wrong. We worship a God who became man not only to die to everyday problems, but to die on a cross.

I’d rather eat a sea worm than die on a cross. And I have no intention of eating a sea worm.

Is there hope for me? Who has no interest in handing over my cloak to my enemy? Who considers it a supreme act of forbearance to keep my mouth shut five minutes longer than usual?

Well, Jesus did himself begin with the tame crosses. He lived a perfect life, but one begun in perfect answers to smaller things – the wrong kind of delivery room, a hurried trip to Egypt. A perfect life, but one that, for a time, involved slipping away from the big cross that threatened, until it should be the proper hour for the final agony.

So I start there. I can’t pat myself on the back for an A+ in Cheek Turning 101, when the best I managed was to not stick out my tongue, or sling my fist. When I respond to evil with an answer more graceful than vengeful, I can’t tell myself I’ve fulfilled this Gospel mandate. Not yet.

But I’ve started. We begin with the small trip to the safe place, and go from there to someplace wilder, more dangerous, and more magnificent.

Ponder:

Where are you, today, in the journey towards learning to repay good for evil? Still spitting mad and plotting revenge? Ready to lay down your life for the person who destroyed all you love and hold dear? Or somewhere in between?

Pray:

This is a hard teaching, Lord. Your ways are completely different than mine. You ask of me things that seem impossible – are are impossible, without your Grace. Today I am asking you to help me take the next step towards becoming more like you, and loving others, and myself, more like you do.  Thank you. Amen.

Copyright 2014 Jennifer Fitz

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4 Comments

  1. First, if I haven’t said this before Jennifer, I really enjoy your writing style, even when I am at my busiest and think I do not have time to read this, if I just read one sentence, I am drawn right in from the beginning (and always very glad I made the time because God is faithful to my spending this time with Him to teach me something new and draw me even closer to Him!)

    As for this Gospel – I’m right behind you with those small steps forward. Taking my small victories of holding my tongue without biting it off, or smiling when I want to spit. Offering my cloak, or sometimes it is my listening ear or last dollar, while holding back my opinion in exchange for the “gift”.

    Thank God, for Grace!! That freely given gift of himself within us, that helps us make these strides, no matter how tiny towards holiness. Great reflection!!

  2. Jen, first of all, Amen to what Allison said. You are just such a great writer! It’s a blessing to reflect on all of your work, but especially these gospel passages.

    Now as to this passage, I truly focused on the very last line of this one, since it’s message ties in so greatly with my soon to be coming book (The Grace of Yes) and this thought that by “erring on the side of ‘yes'” you and I have the capacity to change the world. Tough as it is, I think the tiny “cheek turning” moments each of us face each day are among our greatest sources of grace. I’m not saying I always get this right, but I’m starting to seek out these “yes Lord” moments and to try to embrace them. Thanks for leading me into fruitful prayer today.

  3. Ouch. I stand justly challenged. Today alone, I got short on two occasions. Not yet able to manage the tame version.

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