This is a hard teaching, or perhaps we should say it is a difficult teaching, a challenging teaching. When we read all of chapter 5 we realize that this is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon comes near the beginning of Jesus’ preaching. It develops in a prepared way—rather than spontaneously—and it contains the core message of Christianity.
We should not be concerned about the origin of each of these teachings or whether they were given as one whole sermon or collected later by Matthew. Instead let us set ourselves to listen attentively. This Gospel passage is an explanation of the overall theme of love. Jesus is dismantling the common, strong inclination to seek retaliation, to exact revenge. So often we follow this lower instinct that requires nothing of our human nature—simply anger, brute force, animal cunning, “inner evil.” Although we might feel strong, crafty, in control, even justified, when we retaliate we are simply acting out of animal instinct.
Jesus wants us to stand before him, to stand also in our own presence, to reflect on what has angered us—usually it is something small: an insult, a slap, a demand. Why lower ourselves to a reaction similar to the insult? If we are the better person, shouldn’t our reaction be nobler? If someone wants something that is yours, give it rather than fall into a battle over it. If someone demands a service, give it willingly and even exceed the demand; give more. At the end Jesus suggests a way to ready ourselves for these difficult, demanding moments. He says, give to one who asks, do not deny one who wants to borrow. If we follow his advice our hearts will be big enough and our spirits strong enough to meet insult, injustice, and injury more gently, with nobility, with love as Jesus himself, the Son of God, met the great personal offense of his passion.
Jesus, my God and my example, you constantly met with insult, antagonism, and pressure as you went about preaching divine love and forgiveness. Your whole mission was centered on us—on our salvation. Make my heart similar to yours, meek and humble, that what I desire for every other person will be similar to what you desire—peace in this life and eternal happiness in the next. Amen.
Do not say no to kindness.
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 186–187). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us. We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from traveling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey.
Psychologists tell us that a true friend is someone who has seen us at our worst and still loves us. If you have encountered me only on my best days, when all is going well and I am in top form, and you like me, I have no guarantee that you are my friend. But when you have dealt with me when I am most obnoxious, most self-absorbed, most afraid and unpleasant, and you still love me, then I am sure that you are my friend. The old Gospel song says, "what a friend we have in Jesus!" This is not pious sentimentalism; it is the heart of the matter. What the first Christians saw in the dying and rising of Jesus is that we killed God, and God returned in forgiving love. We murdered the Lord of Life, and he answered us, not with hatred, but with compassion. He saw us at our very worst, and loved us anyway. Thus they saw confirmed in flesh and blood what Jesus had said the night before he died: "I do not call you servants any longer ... but I have called you friends" (John 14: 15). They realized, in the drama of the Paschal Mystery, that we have not only been shown a new way; we have been drawn into a new life, a life of friendship with God. The author of Psalm 139 wrote:
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast. (Ps. 139:7-10)
These words take on a new resonance and reveal their deepest significance in light of Easter. No matter where we run from God —no matter how we try to flee - God tracks us down and will not let us go. Paul Tillich read Psalm 139 as the sinner's lament, the cry of the soul who just wants to escape from the press of God: "How can I get away from you?" The answer fully disclosed in the dying and rising of Jesus is: "You can't; so stop trying." Because the Son of God has gone to the very limits of godforsakenness, we find that even as we run away from the Father, we are running directly into the arms of the Son. Unlike most contemporary New Age spiritualities, as we have seen, which emphasize the human quest for God, the biblical spirituality is the story of God's relentless search for us. And this narrative comes to its fulfillment in the recounting of God's journey into the darkest and coldest corner of human sinfulness - even into death itself - in order to find us. This divine finding, this friendship with God despite all of our efforts to avoid it, is salvation.
from The Strangest Way - Walking the Christian Path by Robert Barron pp. 97-98
Everyone knows that if you place a tea bag in a cup of hot water, that water will be transformed. It’s no longer just water, but a cup of tea with a distinct color and flavor. Once they’re combined, it’s no small task to remove the tea from the water. It would take a chemist a complex series of steps to separate the elements.
This is a good analogy for the way God changes our lives. Take Peter and John, for example: they had been fishermen, but once Jesus came into their lives, something changed them. Then they spent three years being steeped in his love, his teachings, and his power to heal. They saw him in the day-to-day activities of their lives. They saw his death and his resurrected glory. Then they received the Holy Spirit, who came to live in them. How could they not be changed?
You have been changed by the Lord, too. Like the tea bag in hot water, the Holy Spirit is in you; he is making a difference in your life. Every time you go to Mass, every time you ponder the Scriptures, you are “steeping” yourself in him. Every time you go to Confession or spend time serving people in need, his life is becoming stronger in you. He is making you “look” and “taste” more like him. You are becoming a living, breathing example of the truth that anyone who is “in Christ” is a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Do you know what this means? God can use you to change a little part of the world! You may not feel ready to pray with people for healing or to share your faith like Peter and John. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Holy Spirit lives in you and he’s moving in your life. Besides, it’s the Spirit’s job to make you like Christ—only he can manage such a transformation. You don’t need a complicated program of self-improvement. You just need to spend time with the Lord and let him do his work. Isn’t that good news?
“Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Thank you that your life in me is ever growing!”
Daily Thought From The Word Among Us (April 21, 2017)
Jesus tells us that the seed which fell on the path or on the rocky ground or among the thorns bore no fruit. I believe that we can ask ourselves honestly: What kind of ground are we? What kind of ground do we want to be? Maybe sometimes we are like the path: we hear the Lord’s word but it changes nothing in our lives because we let ourselves be numbed by all the superficial voices competing for our attention. I ask you, but do not respond immediately; everyone respond in his or her own heart: am I a young person who is numb? Or perhaps we are like the rocky ground: we receive Jesus with enthusiasm, but we falter and, faced with difficulties, we don’t have the courage to swim against the tide. Everyone of us respond in his or her heart: am I courageous or am I a coward? Or maybe we are like the thorny ground: negativity, negative feelings choke the Lord’s word in us (cf. Mt 13:18-22). Do I have the habit of playing both sides in my heart: do I make a good impression for God or for the devil? Do I want to receive the seed from Jesus and at the same time water the thorns and the weeds that grow in my heart? But today I am sure that the seed is able to fall on good soil. We are listening to these witnesses, of how the seed has fallen on good soil. “No, Father, I am not good soil; I am a disaster, and I am full of stones, of thorns, of everything.” Yes, maybe this is so on the surface, but free a little piece, a small piece of good soil, and let the seed fall there and watch how it grows. I know that you want to be good soil, true Christians, authentic Christians, not part-time Christians: “starchy”, aloof and Christian in “appearance only”. I know that you don’t want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads. I know that you are aiming high, at long-lasting decisions which are meaningful. Is that true, or am I wrong? Am I right? Good; if it is true, let’s do this: in silence, let us all look into our hearts and each one of us tell Jesus that we want to receive the seed of his Word. Say to him: Jesus, look upon the stones, the thorns, and the weeds that I have, but look also upon this small piece of ground that I offer to you so that the seed may enter my heart. In silence, let us allow the seed of Jesus to enter our hearts. Remember this moment. Everyone knows the seed that has been received. Allow it to grow, and God will nurture it.
Pope Francis Prayer Vigil With Young People July 27, 2013 World Youth Day
Today concludes the Easter season, the fifty days that, from Jesus’ resurrection to Pentecost, are marked in a particular way by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is in fact the Easter Gift par excellence. He is the Creator Spirit, who constantly brings about new things. Today’s readings show us two of those new things. In the first reading, the Spirit makes of the disciples a new people; in the Gospel, he creates in the disciples a new heart. A new people. On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came down from heaven, in the form of “divided tongues, as of fire… [that] rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages” (Acts 2:3-4). This is how the word of God describes the working of the Spirit: first he rests on each and then brings all of them together in fellowship. To each he gives a gift, and then gathers them all into unity. In other words, the same Spirit creates diversity and unity, and in this way forms a new, diverse and unified people: the universal Church. First, in a way both creative and unexpected, he generates diversity, for in every age he causes new and varied charisms to blossom. Then he brings about unity: he joins together, gathers and restores harmony: “By his presence and his activity, the Spirit draws into unity spirits that are distinct and separate among themselves” (CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA, Commentary on the Gospel of John, XI, 11). He does so in a way that effects true union, according to God’s will, a union that is not uniformity, but unity in difference. For this to happen, we need to avoid two recurrent temptations. The first temptation seeks diversity without unity. This happens when we want to separate, when we take sides and form parties, when we adopt rigid and airtight positions, when we become locked into our own ideas and ways of doing things, perhaps even thinking that we are better than others, or always in the right, when we become so-called “guardians of the truth”. When this happens, we choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the Church. We become avid supporters for one side, rather than brothers and sisters in the one Spirit. We become Christians of the “right” or the “left”, before being on the side of Jesus, unbending guardians of the past or the avant-garde of the future before being humble and grateful children of the Church. The result is diversity without unity. The opposite temptation is that of seeking unity without diversity. Here, unity becomes uniformity, where everyone has to do everything together and in the same way, always thinking alike. Unity ends up being homogeneity and no longer freedom. But, as Saint Paul says, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). So the prayer we make to the Holy Spirit is for the grace to receive his unity, a glance that, leaving personal preferences aside, embraces and loves his Church, our Church. It is to accept responsibility for unity among all, to wipe out the gossip that sows the darnel of discord and the poison of envy, since to be men and women of the Church means being men and women of communion. It is also to ask for a heart that feels that the Church is our Mother and our home, an open and welcoming home where the manifold joy of the Holy Spirit is shared. Now we come to the second new thing brought by the Spirit: a new heart. When the risen Jesus first appears to his disciples, he says to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (Jn 20:22-23). Jesus does not condemn them for having denied and abandoned him during his passion, but instead grants them the spirit of forgiveness. The Spirit is the first gift of the risen Lord, and is given above all for the forgiveness of sins. Here we see the beginning of the Church, the glue that holds us together, the cement that binds the bricks of the house: forgiveness. Because forgiveness is gift to the highest degree; it is the greatest love of all. It preserves unity despite everything, prevents collapse, and consolidates and strengthens. Forgiveness sets our hearts free and enables us to start afresh. Forgiveness gives hope; without forgiveness, the Church is not built up. The spirit of forgiveness resolves everything in harmony, and leads us to reject every other way: the way of hasty judgement, the cul-de-sac of closing every door, the one-way street criticizing others. Instead, the Spirit bids us take the two-way street of forgiveness received and forgiveness given, of divine mercy that becomes love of neighbour, of charity as “the sole criterion by which everything must be done or not done, changed or not changed” (ISAAC OF STELLA, Or. 31). Let us ask for the grace to make more beautiful the countenance of our Mother the Church, letting ourselves be renewed by forgiveness and self-correction. Only then will we be able to correct others in charity.
The Holy Spirit is the fire of love burning in the Church and in our hearts, even though we often cover him with the ash of our sins. Let us ask him: “Spirit of God, Lord, who dwell in my heart and in the heart of the Church, guiding and shaping her in diversity, come! Like water, we need you to live. Come down upon us anew, teach us unity, renew our hearts and teach us to love as you love us, to forgive as you forgive us. Amen”.
Homily of Pope Francis —Solemnity of Pentecost 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world. But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven “like the rush of a violent wind”, and filled the house; then the “tongues as of fire” which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”, who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all “began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”. A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: “We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language”. And what is it that they are they speaking about? “God’s deeds of power”. In the light of this passage from Acts, I would like to reflect on three words linked to the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission. 1. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness - God always brings newness -, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves today: Are we open to “God’s surprises”? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new? We would do well to ask ourselves these questions all through the day. 2. A second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony – “Ipse harmonia est”. He is indeed harmony. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are very dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community – the Apostle John tells us in his Second Letter - and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn v. 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church? 3. A final point. The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter”, who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission? Today let us remember these three words: newness, harmony and mission. Today’s liturgy is a great prayer which the Church, in union with Jesus, raises up to the Father, asking him to renew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May each of us, and every group and movement, in the harmony of the Church, cry out to the Father and implore this gift. Today too, as at her origins, the Church, in union with Mary, cries out: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.
POPE FRANCIS - SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST HOLY MASS WITH THE ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS (MAY 19, 2107)
What matters to God is people, not structures. It is souls that make the church beautiful, and therefore she must adorn herself with souls. God is concerned about the hearts of His people, the love of His people, and everything else is meant to function as a support to that priority.