Reflection for Sunday – February 19, 2017

Readings: Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3: 16-23; Matthew 5: 38-48
Preacher: Tim Weider
February 18-19, 2017

Our first reading this weekend shows us God telling Moses to tell the whole community to “be holy… not bear hatred ….Take no revenge and cherish no grudge…Love your neighbor as yourself…!” Our psalm reminds us that God redeems our lives from destruction and crowns us with kindness and compassion. And today’s Gospel encourages us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. How are we doing?

We live in the age of the reality show. Advertisers now reassure us that those human beings who effusively praise their products are not actors. They are real people.
It was centuries ago that the lives of aboriginal peoples, and the Norse, the Greeks, the Romans, were shaped by mythological gods.
Today, at a time of moral ambiguity and persistent questions of human values, we seek role models who are solid, stable, and clear… Who are, in a word … real.

For those seeking to stabilize life with spiritual meaning, at a time when some try to sell ”alternative facts,” the question becomes: how real is the Buddha, Mohammed, Abraham, Jesus? How much of the real Jesus has become encrusted in myth, theologizing, and historical manipulation in order to use him for personal and institutional power? How do I know the real Jesus of Nazareth?

In the midst of our spiritual journey, Jesus asks, “who do men say that I am?” We have heard from the four Gospel writers, the exegetes, the dogmatists, the theologians, the religious power brokers and others. Yet, often people are left with an awful emptiness.

Still, Jesus is the boundless embodiment of Existential Love.
There is Jesus the teenager who left his fearful parents in search of the spiritual meaning of life; there is the itinerant teacher who met people on their common ground and from the ordinariness told parallel stories of wisdom and hope; there is the healer whose simple compassionate presence was a balm healing distress, disease, even death; there is the non-judgmental arbiter of justice freeing us from shame, guilt, accusation; there is the zealous activist who with courage and a whip sought to overturn the political, economic, and religious oppression of the impoverished; and, there is the criminal executed for seditious Love.

Looking squarely at each of us, he asks, “and, who do you say that I am?” Perhaps, his most clarifying question.
And so, in our search for the real Jesus, he leaves it to each of us, to find him in our world today and make his love known wherever we are.
In the midst of our spiritual journey, who is the Jesus accompanying us on the road from Emmaus, … as we journey on with him toward life’s fulfillment?

Tim Weider

Tim Weider MSW Mdiv serves with the marginalized poor in city neighborhoods. Experienced with trauma and trauma healing, he assists neighborhoods and groups in developing cultures for healing trauma. He teaches Graduate Education, Social Work and Sociology at Nazareth College and undergraduate Sociology at Nazareth and the MCC City Campus.

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