With these ideas, Jesus gives us the means through which we can overcome the sinful desires of our fallen nature. We are being given a road map to the highest forms of moral behavior. The challenge is personal.
This passage comes from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is filled with Jesus’ most challenging ideas concerning how we are to live in the world. These ideas contradict every “wisdom” that the world teaches us. Why? Because they are the wisdom of God.
With these ideas, Jesus gives us the means through which we can overcome the sinful desires of our fallen nature. We are being given a road map to the highest forms of moral behavior. The challenge is personal. We are each challenged to recognize that we are being called to live these Beatitudes within the reality of the sin and suffering of this world. We are challenged to live as Jesus lived. In doing so we will become, like Jesus, a living challenge to the wisdoms of the world. Though when, in faith, we choose to live this way, we will become vulnerable to the criticism and even the hatred of the world. Still, we can trust that God will be with us and that his grace will enter into the world through us.
The first challenge in today’s passage, seems especially strange to us. We are told to love our enemies. There is something within us that wants to question this, even to reject it as foolish. It doesn’t make sense to us. We are told to “do good,” yes, even to our enemies. And it is here that the wisdom of God is revealed. Hate cannot conquer hate, only love can. The most effective way to counter evil is to do good. Good, in the end, is much more powerful than evil. Jesus is proof of that.
The next challenge of this passage flies directly in the face of our materialism. We are told “to lend, expecting nothing in return.” We are challenged here to give from the depths of our hearts, out of love for the other. Our generosity, our concern, is to be completely magnanimous, with nothing of the petulant, or demanding self in it. Oh, how often we suffer, though, because of our desire for immediate gratification. But Jesus tells us here that in freely loving our enemies, doing good and lending without expecting in return, “our reward will be great.” We are to faithfully live this way not in expectation of immediate rewards, but because it is right, because it is the way of Jesus. Jesus does not expect us to save the world, but he does expect us to live the Beatitudes with those who are closest to us, our families, our friends, those “enemies” that injure us by their words or deeds in our daily lives, and those who have need of our assistance in the immediate moment. Jesus’ promised “reward” for living this way is not fame, or increased wealth, or honors here in this life, rather, it is the promise of a heavenly home in the eternal presence of God.
Lord, we know that we are weak and that we often fall for the temptations of this world. We beg your forgiveness when we do fail to live up to your Word, and we pray that you increase our faith. We pray that you flood us with your empowering graces. Give us the courage to live the challenges of your Sermon on the Mount in our daily lives. We pray these things believing in the power of the name, Jesus. Amen!
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