Not always “Sweet and Gentle”

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Tomorrow may be Valentine’s Day, but it wasn’t a “sweet and gentle Jesus” that we saw today. Today’s gospel contains some of Jesus’ most demanding statements.  He used strong and dramatic language to exhort his disciples to a make a radical commitment to God that went far beyond the rabbinic teachings they had known.  But as I was reading, I wondered about the context in which he spoke.  Were his disciples struggling with obedience to the law?  That would be easy to understand, since the Roman occupation produced such tension. Were some of them asking provocative questions?  Or did Jesus simply, but forcefully, emphasize that they needed to be focused on God and deal with any personal, deeper issues that would distract them from their mission?

Jesus said that he came to fulfill the Law, so it made sense to me that there would be an urgent need for the disciples to learn about Jesus’ good news and what it all meant. Those who decided to continue to follow Jesus needed to learn, and risk a great deal.  They needed to be willing to sacrifice their needs for the needs of others, and they had to be willing to face the misunderstandings and rejections that would result from their decisions.

We also take risks when we refuse to get caught up in the negative aspects of our everyday lives. Our children take risks when they refuse to give in to peer pressure, refuse to bully or cheat at school, or even when they admit to their friends that they are Catholic Christians.  However, this level of commitment to Jesus and to our church is powerful and life-affirming.  The truthful, uncomplicated way of life that Jesus wants for us, will bring peace to our hearts.  It’s really pretty simple, especially when it’s all done in love.

Dorothy A. Hathway, CSJA