21 December 2007

Doing the Truth in Love

The statements attributed to Jesus in the gospels and especially the parables are provocations to expand the imagination. "You have thought of God as creator and judge," he seems to say, "now try thinking of God as a wildly overindulgent parent, or as a shepherd who would rather abandon a whole flock than loose one lamb, or a woman who would take her whole house apart to find one missing coin. You have thought of your neighbor as a fellow-believer; now try thinking of your neighbor as a Samaritan helping a Jew who has been mugged. You have thought of the kingdom of God as a glorious reign of peace and justice; now try thinking of of the Kingdom as a mustard seed or a treasure buried in a field or a pearl worth more than all the others." And we are not just to think of God and our neighbor in new ways. We are not simply to know the truth, we must do it.

This is, I suggest, the way we must hear those very strange saying of Jesus, the beatitudes. "Blessed are the poor, for the kingdom belongs to them. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who are in sorrow, for they shall find consolation. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall see God. Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of justice, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them" (Mt 5:3-10). What are we to make of the claims that Jesus seems to advance? What kind of statements are they? Surely they are not descriptions; has anyone noticed the gentle inheriting the earth or those who hunger and thirst being filled recently? Are they simply promises? Keep your fingers crossed and some happy day this will all come true. Surely not. I suggest that they might be heard as hypothesis to be demonstrated. Imagine the world this way, live accordingly, and see if they do not prove to be the case. The beatitudes are challenges to our imagination. They are to be concretized in our lives so that they are not ideal truths but idealized truths. They are not to be accepted or believed; they are to be done."

-Fr. Michael J. Himes
(Doing the Truth in Love, p. 142-143)

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