One of our monks recalls a scene from his childhood. He says, "I must have been about nine or ten. I remember my mom, a really pious woman, getting angry with her brother, my Uncle Billy, who once again had bailed out his teenage son. My cousin was a young renegade who was always messing up – wrecked cars, drunk driving. There was always a new disaster. My mom was infuriated that Billy let his son take advantage of him over and over again, protective of his honor and so afraid that her brother was being made a fool of. But Uncle Billy loved this kid so much, he didn't care. He loved to love. Anyway this one day after listening to him, my mom blew up. 'Oh c’mon Johnny,' she said. 'Don’t give me that turn-the-other-cheek stuff.' ” Our monk tells us that the memory of this conversation still smarts.
Indeed, "that turn-the-other-cheek stuff" is what it means for us to follow Jesus, as this morning's Gospel makes clear. And Jesus' way continues to be absolutely counter-cultural, counter-intuitive. It is often the way of doing the opposite of our first inclination. And so very often we must admit it is beyond our ability. Of course it is! We have to depend on the Lord to stretch our hearts wider and wider and show us how. He can do it, if we cooperate just a bit with his grace.
Praise God. We are all of us on the way, learning how to love as Christ loves. No wonder the monastery is called a school of love. It's where we learn over and over how to love as God loves. Christ Jesus is our best Teacher; he encourages us to keep practicing.
Photograph by Brother Brian.