More homiletic thoughts:
- When I was a kid, my father was always trying to get my two brothers and me to shovel the snow. “Comon, don’t make your poor mother do it. Help me!” How many times did I hear that. I soon realized that one of the quickest ways to get the shoveling done was to do a poor job: just take that top layer off the snow and not really push the shovel to take off the last inch of precipitation and whatever ice hugged the sidewalk. My father would look, furrow his brow and say, “Ya gotta take it down to the wood!” I think that is what we have going on in the Gospel today: Jesus is trying to drill down to the most basic human problems: jealously, mistruth, objectification of others. He is, in a sense, taking it down to the “wood,” to the marrow of Christian life. Being called to be a disciple means drilling down to the most basic difficulties and getting at the root causes of them. It may be easier to run our snow shovels over our lives, but we need to expend the extra effort and intention if we want to progress in the spiritual life.
- At the same time, while it sounds as if Jesus is placing quite a burden on his followers, it isn’t as it first looks, precisely because Jesus is the message in and of himself. What is more, Jesus just doesn’t make prescriptions, but rather stays as humans struggle: and when we do, in a final, culminating act of love, Jesus accepts all of the human failure, spreading wide his arms on the cross. This is the great mystery of our faith: Jesus is both the sign of God’s love and the love of God itself.
- Back to the snow metaphors again: the beauty of our Christian faith is that our “snow shoveling” inevitably falls short, but that the Lord calls us into relationship anyway. A homey metaphor, if you will: our efforts to live lives of virtue are equivalent to snow shoveling; the Eucharist, however, the Risen Lord coming to us in an intimate way is ice-melt: the most precious and effective way to chip away at even the most long-enduring iciness that eats away at our hearts.