So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. Mt. 5:48
We continue to hear Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. Historical study helps us understand the meaning of two of the examples Jesus gives in this passage.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well.
Going to law over a tunic refers to a situation of extreme poverty in which a pauper needs to borrow and has on his coat to offer as collateral. Exodus 22:25 demands that the lender return the coat at night because it is also the pauper’s blanket. If the lender thinks the borrower is taking advantage of the situation to avoid paying his debts, he can arrange a trial to teach the poor a lesson and keep the cloak.
The borrower’s only recourse is prophetic action: stripping himself in public to demonstrate how legalism denudes poor people of every protection.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile go for two miles.
The “extra mile” depicts the real comic scene. Jesus’ audience knew that Roman soldiers could force someone to carry their packs for precisely 1 mile and no more. When the carrier went further, the astounded soldier, suddenly in danger of being charged with brutality or worse, had to chase after the cheerful carrier, begging for the return of his burden. What a silly comedown for the pompous!
Our first reading from Leviticus said, “Be holy.” Jesus said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus portrayed this “perfection” as the creative power to transform situations of injustice. He must have had to think and pray a long time to come up with these examples. We need to do the same.
The Gospel of nonviolent resistance is very serious – and humorous to boot. This Gospel calls us to cherish our adversaries more than we cherish our grudges. We do that through the intimately related activities of not letting anyone get away with denigrating others and creating alternatives that express reverence for the dignity of everybody involved. We need long thought and prayer to become creative, transformative, holy images of our God.
With luck, we’ll have lots of fun along the way! (Taken from Sr. Mary M. McGlone’s reflection in NCR)
This week we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. There are Little Black Books available in the narthex. The regulations on Lenten fast and abstinence are:
FASTING: On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, those who are 18 but not yet 60 are allowed only one full meal. Two smaller meals are allowed as needed.
ASTINENCE FROM MEAT: Those who are 14 years of age or older are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent.