June 13, 2022
by Tom Lenz
Creighton University's Center for Health Promotion and Well-Being
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 365

1 Kings 21:1-16
Psalm 5:2-3ab, 4b-6a, 6b-7
Matthew 5:38-42

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Parenting Our Adult Children
Praying As We Age

I have been driving the same route every day to the Creighton University campus in Omaha for the past 23 years. Not far from campus is a stoplight that gets pretty congested during the morning commute to work. And, for as long as I can remember there have been people standing at this stoplight nearly every morning asking us commuters for food, money, or anything else we can spare. On my particular route through this intersection, these folks usually stand on the median next to the left lane of the two lane road. Also, for as long as I can remember, the cars moving through this intersection tend to line up in the right lane with the left lane being almost completely open all the way up to the stop light. On some mornings there are as many as twenty cars in the right lane and nearly no cars in the left lane.

A few years ago I decided to commit to always drive through this intersection in the left lane. If I happened to get stopped at the light as I was passing through, I made sure I had a couple dollars, a granola bar, or water to give the people asking for help. I committed to being “a left lane driver.”

As I read Matthew’s Gospel, my initial reaction to the story was that Jesus is asking us to be nice to others. He wants us to be a left lane driver. But, as I sat with it for a bit longer, it seems that there is more to the message. Doing nice things for others is great, no doubt. But, is that all we have to do? I guess it might seem like that is enough because we see so many news stories of people who are purposely harming others. So, it’s easy to adopt the “do no harm” and “just be nice” kind of attitude as being enough. But, after sitting with this reading for a while, that kind of attitude doesn’t seem to go far enough. It certainly is good and necessary, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to fundamentally change the many challenging social issues in our society. There will likely always be a need for “left lane drivers” at that intersection as long as we remain at the “be nice” level of consciousness.

What Jesus seems to be saying in today’s gospel is “let go” – which is different than “be nice.” For example, “offer no resistance to one who is evil” seems to be saying, “let go of your pride.” It is not necessary or important to be right, or to win, or to even care that someone else appears more powerful or has hurt your pride/feelings. And, “give him your cloak as well” seems to say, let go of the possessions and all the material things that are making us feel more important than others. It’s okay to have possessions, just let go of the “separate and superior” attitude that it usually offers. And, “go with him for two miles” is saying, let go of your time and energy – they are really not that important. These “things” that we see as important and contributing to our identity and ego do not matter in the BIG Life. They do not represent who we truly are, our True Self in God. But, they do matter a great deal in our small life. We attach ourselves to these “worldly things”, as they are sometimes called, because they give us the labels that we so greatly desire.

I think I can hear what Jesus is saying in this story (and in many other gospel readings). To assume the posture of “letting go” of our small self labels will lead to us discovering our True Self – the Self that lives in God and that God lives in, as well. Matthew’s Gospel helped me to see that being a “left lane driver” is a good thing – but there is more. Letting go of the ego-driven labels that I constantly seek will move me towards, “Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on the one who wants to borrow.”

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