Sunday, February 19, 2017
The continuation of the Sermon on the Mount (today’s gospel coming from Matthew’s 5th chapter and beyond) reminds me again of my experience from a year ago last Christmas when I went over to Home Depot on Roosevelt Road to pick up a tree. I had parked my car on Clinton Street in front of the store and as I was tying my tree down I noticed (and heard!) an altercation that was taking place between two other drivers in the driveway of Home Depot. One driver who also was tying his tree to his car had literally clogged up the entire entrance driveway by not pulling off to the side. He was pretty clueless and was jamming up the lane. Well, needless to say, on a busy Saturday afternoon just prior to Christmas, this totally irritated the guy behind him who had no choice but to wait. Both men kept shouting at each other, one frustrated because he knows he screwed up by the way he parked his car and the other guy who had zero patience. The only thing I could hear from Mr Impatient, besides him blowing the horn of his car, was an irritated man yelling in mantra form: “Just Get It Done!!!” His way of saying, hurry up!
I can’t help but think of those words as we continue breaking open Matthew’s gospel and the words of Jesus on the side of that mountain: just get it done! Remember three Sundays ago, the Sermon on the Mount began with the Beatitudes, it continued then with the image of Salt and Light, and then last week we remember the challenging words about forgiveness, temptation, and tearing off limbs! Yikes! Today, the same sermon continues with an emphasis on turning cheeks, going the extra mile, and loving your enemies. Yikes again!
What scholars say about the Sermon on the Mount is that this was Jesus’ vision for the Kingdom of God. He was sharing not only his dream, but also making some pretty concrete suggestions on how perhaps the disciples could get the job done and make the dream a reality. Some might say that just like Moses being on a mountain to receive the commandments, so too this was Jesus being the new Moses by sitting on the mountain and sharing some “tough love” commands that take all the fun out of life!
Though perhaps tough to hear and seemingly an “in your face” kind of sermon, I think this was Jesus’ deep desire and passionate frustration for a better and holier world. Though the Incarnation of Love and Mercy, Jesus was also the tough teacher who challenged his disciples and the societal norm to go further and deeper. “Just Get It Done!” Turn those cheeks; go the extra mile; let the salt renew its flavor; let the light on the hill be brighter; be true to your word; forgive especially when it’s hard to do so; blessed are the peacemakers; love your enemies; settle with your opponent. Tough stuff to accomplish but I guess that’s the challenge and the risk of being a disciple. We just have to keep chipping away at it!
I’m grateful today that Fr. Richard Fragomeni, Fr. Tom Hickey, and Fr. Paul Novak are covering all the liturgies at Old St. Patrick’s. I’m not sure where all of our “regulars” are today but as for me, I will be praying for you in the same place where Jesus delivered the Beatitudes! For the coming week, I am in the Galilee region of the Holy Land on pilgrimage with about 48 others from Old St. Patrick’s. On journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (and at the Western Wall) and into Bethlehem, we will pray for all of you and all the special intentions we carry with us to this sacred part of the world where the Abrahamic religions come together.
Likewise, I just want to share that our new Director of Operations Christine Cockman and our new Director of Ministries Keara Ette are here with us and they have begun their ministries to serve the people of Old St. Pat’s, along with our incredibly talented and outrageously dedicated staff who guide and strengthen our mission every day. You are in good hands because of these wonderful people whose faith and goodness are treasured gifts.
I’m sorry to be missing former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this week. But I hope all of you will be inspired and challenged by his words and his witness for a more peaceful Chicago. The violence and tragedies happening among our children in this city is unconscionable, seen again this past week. Just unreal. It must stop now.
In solidarity for Peace and Non-Violence,
Fr. Tom Hurley