Do We Measure Up?

February 24, 2019

Today’s Gospel is rich in depth and upfront in its challenges.  We are to look at our actions and be accountable for the way we react to others.  Jesus says there is no greatness in lending to those who can pay you back.  There is no real sacrifice in loving those who love you.  He goes on to say “Love your enemies.” This is not a new teaching and we have heard it so many times we may have grown comfortable with the words and may not respond deeply to the reality of the actions it is challenging us to embrace.  These are not easy words.  Loving enemies is not easy.  How often do we unfriend people on Facebook because of something they have written?  How often do we harbor deeply things said to us that were hurtful.  And now we are to forgive them when the pain still resides in us?  This is not easy at all.

Yet the conclusion of this Gospel proclamation is truly the roughest part of the entire scriptures to me.  Not only are we told to stop judging, but we are also told that the measure we use as a measuring stick will be used back on us.  That is really rough.  We live in a competitive society where everything is judged.  The length of my homily is judged.  The people who sit in our favorite pew are judged.  We measure constantly.  How can we just shut it off?  At the grocery store deciding what line to use for checkout, we look at the baskets and judge which will be the fastest.  I never seem to guess correctly.  We measure growth in size, we measure growth in vocabulary and spelling.  Pitches are timed by the speed of the ball and I measure the putt of the golf ball on the green before I decide to putt.  Measuring is what we do.  How can we turn it off?

The simple answer is to stop the comparison game.  Comparisons invite us to use a measuring tool which we alone set a standard for.  What makes a liberal a liberal?  What makes a conservative a conservative?  Our measuring stick, guided by our beliefs will issue a definition.  But the Gospel invites us to go deeper, to look at the situation before we label or need to label.  Just by acknowledging liberal and conservative we have entered a measurement that God does not use.

In the old Eucharistic Prayer it said “From east to west a pure sacrifice is offered to God.”  In the new Roman Missal it says “From rising of the sun until its setting.”  The beautiful imagery transposes where we are.  We can be anywhere and the sun rises and falls and there is no worry about where we are geographically, in the east or in the west.  This return to the awe and beauty of descriptive words that embrace the beauty of God’s creation is the first step of opening the measuring tool that we like to use.  Seeing the perspective of God as greater and more powerful than our own begins the measurement that loves all equally.  The Samaritan asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor,” not “who is my enemy.”  Wonder why?  We all can name our enemies.

The measurement we measure with will be measured back to us!  Do we measure up to our own standards and those that we set for others?

Reverend  John J. Ouper