Tough Love

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Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time 

Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” 

Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, I believe in you, in your goodness and your interest in me. I am coming into your presence right now full of a desire to know you better, to praise you, and to receive whatever grace you want to give me today.  

Encountering Christ:

  1. Christian Creativity: When Jesus commands us to “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you,” he is enhancing a commandment in use among other rabbis during his lifetime. The other version said, “Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” The common version uses the negative–“do not do”–and Jesus uses the positive: “do.” The underlying sentiment in both versions is the same: other people, every other person, is worthy of my respect and consideration. I cannot treat other people as if they were less important or less worthy than myself. I must see others as brothers and sisters, as fellow human beings and companions who share my same dignity. And the way I treat them must flow from that realization. This is the underlying sentiment in both versions of the Golden Rule. But Jesus’s positive version adds a dimension absent in the negative version. When we “do to others whatever you would have them do to you,” we keep our eyes open for opportunities to serve, encourage, and support. We actually seek opportunities to make a positive impact on the lives of others. The negative version is more limited, encouraging us to avoid causing others damage or putting obstacles in their path. The positive version actually includes the negative version, but not vice versa. Jesus is inviting us not only to avoid causing problems, but to be creative contributors to the world around us, to the people we encounter, live with, and work with. This is an essential element in our Christian identity. Wherever a true Christian can be found, the world and the lives of others will be better because of that Christian’s presence. Love is always looking for ways to build up, help, serve, improve, and beautify. If every Christian simply lived this one commandment to the full, imagine how different the world would be. How fully am I living it?
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  3. Christ’s Challenge: Jesus tells us that the road that leads to life is constricted, the gate that leads to life is narrow, whereas the path leading to destruction is wide and popular. In this one comparison he gives us a sketch of life in a fallen world. The default position of our fallen human nature is contrary to our true good. In other words, it is easier for us to fall into self-centeredness, self-indulgence, self-pity, and self-absorption than it is for us to live with generosity, courage, kindness, charity, and creativity. This is the real core of what is often referred to as “spiritual warfare.” A battle rages within us. Our tendencies to sin pull us in one direction, while our faith invites us to travel in another direction. It is hard to accept faith’s invitation and curb our worldly desires. It would be easier to give in to those worldly desires—they seem so easy, they promise a quick satisfaction, and everyone else is doing it anyway. That’s the wide gate that leads us towards the frustration of our real calling. Choosing to follow the invitation of our faith–entering in by the narrow gate–means, at times, going against popular trends and fads, delaying the gratification of some of our desires, and just plain working hard to do what is right and good. Jesus knows that his way can be hard. But he encourages us to follow it anyway. He believes in us. He knows that he made our hearts to find their fulfillment–the fullness of life–in our relationship with him, in obeying the commandments that reveal the authentic requirements of our human nature. How willing am I to battle against the destructive tendencies of my human nature in order to nourish and release the full potential of the life within me? Jesus wants me to be willing, and he will help me. I just have to decide.
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  5. Sagacious Disciples: When Jesus warns us about the danger of giving our pearls to swine, he is teaching to be Christian realists. Jesus understands better than any of us just how broken our world is, just how fallen our human nature is. He knows that it is not enough for us simply to want to do good, to be a positive influence in the world. No, we also have to learn how to do that. We have to learn to be sagacious about choosing the right time, place, and manner for sharing with others the pearls of truth and grace we have received from the Lord. When a space capsule reenters the earth’s atmosphere, it has to do so at just the right angle and speed. Otherwise, it may bounce off the atmosphere and drift irretrievably back into space. Or it may enter too sharply and incinerate completely, instead of navigating toward a safe landing. It is similar with our attempts to share with others the Good News and the wisdom of Jesus Christ through our words and deeds. The right word spoken at the wrong time can worsen situations rather than improving them. A good deed done with the right intention but in the wrong circumstances can actually cause damage instead of promoting healing. In a certain sense, this fallen world is like a battlefield strewn with landmines. Jesus wants us to learn to identify where those mines are hidden and develop the ability to avoid setting them off. This doesn’t need to make us timid–after all, he also instructed us to shout from the rooftops what the Lord whispers to our hearts–but Jesus wants it to help make us wise and discerning.

 
Conversing with Christ: Your teaching challenges me, Lord. I don’t always feel like doing to others what I would want them to do to me. I don’t always feel like following the narrow path through the narrow gate. I don’t always feel like taking time to reflect and discern about how I should behave. But here you are, teaching me that it is well worth it to do all those things, even if at times I don’t feel like it. I want to trust you, Lord, and to follow your teachings, these teachings. I want to be your faithful disciple, so that my life can bear fruit and bring me the fulfillment I yearn for. But I need your help, Lord. Grant me your grace, Lord: light to know what you want me to do, and strength to carry it out. 

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will go out of my comfort zone in order to do something for someone else that can help them. Afterwards, I will spend some time in prayer, talking with the Lord about what it felt like and what I learned from it. 

For Further Reflection: Spiritual Smoothie: Real Christians Light Lamps (https://rcspirituality.org/spiritual_smoothie/spiritual-smoothie-real-christians-light-lamps/). 

Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.

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