Jesus Set the Bar too High
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Our Lordís public life lasted for three years. The combined Gospels offer us only a few key snapshots of that time.

Matthew, when not on the road with Jesus and the others, probably continued to earn his living in public service. One gets the impression that he kept his ears open to what was being said on the street about Jesus and that later, when at last inspired to do so, he wrote his Gospel largely in response to the concerns he heard expressed by his fellow Jews.

It would seem, from Matthew's vantage-point, that those who looked beyond Jesus' reputation as a prodigious wonder worker, admired him for his eloquence but insisted that he went well beyond reason in what he demanded of his listeners.

For example on the subject of "RETALIATION" he was judged to have been totally unrealistic.

"Getting even" seems to have been not only a question of honour but a sacred right that was dear to the hearts of many.

What Matthew explains in the final verses of Chapter 5, he probably tried, in vain, to explain more than once in the market square.

He clearly delivers Jesus' unwelcome message that the limited retaliation allowed by the Law of Moses eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth ...failed to sufficiently restrict vengeance and violence and so Jesus puts his foot down and interrupts the whole precious cycle of revenge.

Each of the practical examples of non-retaliation given by Jesus and repeated by Matthew directly challenged ancient and accepted behaviour patterns.

Similar treatment was given to the related "who am I obliged to love" question. The concept of loving one's enemy could not have been more foreign. But as Jesus said, "God makes the rain to fall on the unjust as well as on the just." And therefore, so in effect, must we!

You see, Jesus set the bar higher and higher so that, without displaying his or her spiritual poverty, no one could say, "I am what I am because of MY perfected moral attributes and MY polished legal diligence."

Rather, Jesus has always wanted us to discover that the solution lies in our being able to say with honest conviction, "I am what I am by the Grace of God, without whom I am nothing."

This is why Jesus set and continues to set the bar so high. It is because he wants it to be literally impossible for us to reach it on our own. In that fact, coupled with his limitless love for each of us, rests the certainty of our hope.

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