“..speak to the whole community..be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy..” ..the whole community Ampleforth Gilling & Oswaldkirk, called into holiness.. a holiness embodied personified in love.. ..one of the obstructions to that life of holiness love & truth isn’t any lack of love for our neighbour, which we are renowned for, it is the fear of loving oneself.. ..so many of us brought up in a culture & faith of criticism sanction & fear..fear of doing it wrong, & doing it wrong again & suffering the consequences..
“..you must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart..” ..nor hatred of yourself.. ; Lord have mercy “..you must not exact vengeance..” ..nor punish yourself.. ; Christ have mercy “..you must love your neighbour..” ..& learn to love yourself.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
Matthew’s Jesus is never satisfied with the ordinary..the status quo..he uses the usual as a template to work towards the better..”you have learnt how it was said; eye for eye, & tooth for tooth..”natural learned good practice, like looking right & left before crossing road; like reading 613 precepts of Jewish Law, 10 commandments or latest guidelines on safeguarding children; all well & good practice, teaching compliance & best behaviour.. “but I say this to you..” guidance of wise teacher or parent who still teaches necessity of basics, but then takes you further & deeper, & the topic becomes relational as well as academic..my maths teacher at school, a Jesuit, struggled with the subject, his pupils, & now 60yrs later, I see a man struggling to love himself, & thereby heartlessly unable to love his topic & his students..whereas Mr Crotty taught me geography; a brilliant teacher full of life energy conviction; he’d clearly got inside textbook & his heart, & that love for us, in depths of C form in a school intent on academic excellence, gave us dunces hope.. hope in a topic a teacher & a God who wanted to love us & be loved by us..it is pure gift to work alongside Yr 7 to Yr 13 students who come to the Abbey for a 48hr retreat as they begin to realise, first & foremost, they are loved valued & needed; tragically many have never been told it, never learned to believe it & to believe in it..never got beyond highway code/school code of conduct..& those of you who were/are teachers..all of you parents & teachers..realise now best part of your vocation was when you were, still, & always, are in love with yourself, & as a consequence, in love with your family at home & your students in the classroom; when you were a recipient as well as a benefactor of generosity..like Jesus; albeit gospel writers don’t record it, nor Jesus voice it, once you get inside scripture, to the heart of it, you can sense the love Jesus the teacher has for his hearers & for himself; his life grounded on hours & hours in prayer, rebalancing his life & ministry, & when he neglected his prayer “get behind me Satan!” or lost his prayer life in the terrifying void of Gethsemane, the wheels came off, & he needed what you & I need at times..someone to notice & to respond..to go the extra mile with you; notice not “for you” but “with you”; it is our togetherness that will eventually gain us entry to the kingdom “together”..& not dare I say through what Matthew’s Jesus’ calls “perfection” ..if it’s perfection that is needed, we may as well give up now; the divine calling is for us to be real, really our real selves; imperfect flawed yet genuine & sincere, with a love & thirst for God..as in discernment process of novice monk St Benedict asks “whether it is God himself that they truly seek, & whether they have a real love for the work of God” & be faced with this challenge..“this is the law under which you ask to serve; if you can be faithful to it, enter; if you cannot, then freely depart.” so too with you & I in the call the invitation to us to continue, to find depth, new experiences/ encounters with God, always reforming, always on a journey of becoming. My Jesuit maths teacher taught me & marked my work right or wrong, usually wrong.. whereas my geography teacher taught me about an oxbow lake; he explained how a river meandered in bottom of wide valley; lots of bends slowed water down as it gently snaked..going nowhere fast; A to B to C.. until one day a surge, a torrent of energised water came down valley & powerfully took short cut, the direct route A to C; & transformed valley as lazy bit became cut off isolated, forming a horsehoe shaped lake..an oxbow lake..tranquil pleasant to look at but going nowhere..the lively river making good purposeful progress towards its destination ..& where am I in the valley?..loving my neighbour in safe gentle confines of our valley & this Church & A to B to C?..or now, having energy grace & direction to love the two people I’ve avoided/neglected to love until now..& the two people? my enemy & myself.. this Lent are you prepared to do anything exceptional?..to decide whether it is God himself you truly seek, & whether you have a real love for the work of God”..a Lent A to C?.. or another year of gently meandering?.. [ 7th SunYrA; Mt5; 38-48 ]