March 6th, 2004
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"Oh, that I might be firm in the ways of keeping your statutes."
"For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?"
Today's readings are truly counter to contemporary American culture.
In the first reading and responsorial psalm the authors call for steadfastness
in the observance of God's law. This is in stark contrast to the "Pirates
of the Caribbean" view of ethics that Disney brings us: "They are not really
rules. They're more like guidelines." Unfortunately, the latter is where
I am comfortable. These rules are nice in theory, but I am happy to interpret
rules according to my particular circumstances. We argue about the meaning
of a certain word in a certain context. (I remember the discussion following
the president's comments during the Monica Lewinsky incident.) Maybe this
is why we are such a litigious society.
The Gospel is equally threatening to my "comfort zone." A new justice
is established. It is contrasted with "an eye for an eye and a tooth for
a tooth" in the verses from Matthew immediately preceding today's Gospel.
It is hard to do what we know will have no earthly payback. I had an experience
a few weeks ago where I found myself debating this Gospel. I was carrying
out a project and discovered an error made by a colleague. I realized that
I will be complimented and my colleague criticized if I point out his error.
I fixed the mistake and said nothing. Rather than feeling good for my action,
I became conscious I was questioning what I had done. To add to this, I was
displeased with myself for this questioning. Was this Catholic scrupulousness
or fundamental values running up against cultural values? This Gospel asks
a lot when we consider the aspirations given to us by television. This is
particularly true in an election year.
I find that challenge is the strength of our faith. It draws us out from
where we are comfortable. Our faith does not let us rest with a warm fuzzy
feeling. It calls us to go beyond where we are. It asks us to be uncomfortable
in a materialistic society. It does not ask us to reject the world, but rather
it gives us a way of engagement. In the Old Testament we are challenged to
follow the law. In the New Testament we are challenged to love unconditionally.
The latter is clearly more difficult. Coincidentally today is the feast day
of Sylvester of Assisi. Sylvester was a thirteenth century practitioner of
the free market economy converted by the unconditional love shown by Francis
of Assisi. I pray we do as well.
to the writer of this reflection.
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