Sunday, February 16, 2020


As we hear Matthew’s Gospel today, it's clear Jesus is raising the bar, calling us to more, fine-tuning the Law to fever pitch. There is to be no name-calling, we’re not allowed to call anyone an airhead, a blockhead (that is what raqa means after all). None of that kind of language, any of those subtle, snide hurtful things. Tiny as they may be, Jesus reminds us, they are deadly, even murderous. And as Jesus calibrates and adjusts, ups the ante on discipleship, we may wonder then who can make the cut?

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, 
and there recall that your brother 
has anything against you, 
leave your gift there at the altar, 
go first and be reconciled with your brother…

Each time I hear these words I imagine that if we took Jesus literally, we’d have an awful long wait before any gift got brought to the altar. Perhaps we’d all be on the phone or texting or perhaps at the airport or driving somewhere to clear up all the broken relationships, all the messes we’ve been part of. How dare I approach the altar remembering such a backlog of hurts which I’ve caused?

My sisters and brothers, it’s all a set-up. It’s impossible; we can’t do it. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Impossible again. We’re trapped. That’s it exactly; Jesus is cornering us. “Then who can be saved, Lord?” we might ask. For us alone, it is absolutely impossible, we must rely on him, totally, fall back into him, into the warm arms of his mercy. He alone can show us the way to forgiveness and reconciliation, because he is the Way. He alone can re-form our hearts so that they will brim over with mercy and compassion.

Jesus expects so much of us, because God is worth it, the kingdom is worth it. And once we understand how immeasurably the Father’s loves us, we will be empowered and impelled to go and do likewise.

Our father Saint Bernard will put it this way. You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. My answer: the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of the love due to him is immeasurable love. Isn’t this obvious? What is his claim to our love? What could be greater than this - that he gave himself for us unworthy as we are? And being God, what better gift could he offer than himself? So, it follows, if you want to know God’s right to our love, it’s very simple - he first loved us.

All is response to God's loving us first. And it’s all about losing ourselves for him, in him, and ultimately becoming transparent to him, transparent to the love, compassion and mercy that Jesus is.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Meditation by one of our monks.