Reflections on Matthew 5:13-37 on Sunday 13 February 2011
In Egypt's liberation, where did the prayer end and the politics begin?
In Jesus' New Way, where does the law end and New Life begin?
Is it not one seamless garment, even as the robe Jesus wore to his death?
In 1983, Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago coined the term "A Seamless Garment of Life." This Catholic ethic connected with a single thread advocacy for the sanctity of life "from womb to tomb." It means, that we side with the God of Life, preserving life and dignity of all people.
Jesus was leading those on the mountain on an arduous journey. He had invited them to look into the valley of the shadow of death and face poverty of spirit, brokenheartedness, loss of power and the deep hunger for change. Then he led them steeply up through mercy, clarity, solidarity and the willingness to suffer in service of what is right.
The mountain top shout was SALT! LIGHT!
This city on a hill would be seen far and wide.
But the law of the city, of the new community, would be rooted deep within and not only seen in behavior. On the other side of the mountain were all the complexities of real life, and the knots of conflict and temptation that can create a sticky web of entrapment.
How was the new community to break through the brittleness of the law to the New Law of Love?
Choose Emotional Life!
In extremes we can become a danger to ourselves or to others.
Life can be taken by murder or by suicide.
Anger carries this danger.
We stand as one body for the life of each and everybody.
To choose life is to neither fight nor flee, but to find the middle ground where neither victim nor offender loses face, loses life.
Choose Sexual Life!
If beauty or the buff body is there for the taking, why would we hold back?
Jesus says, stealing a glance, a titilation, is still stealing.
The life of sexual intimacy belongs to the owner of each one's body
and to those bodies are lovingly joined in covenant.
If you have not joined the covenant of love,
end false gratification before it begins.
Choose Covenantal Life!
Vows for life will be tested. To honor our partner holds them in the highest regard. The bond created by God to procreate Life cannot be passed along without tearing the soul from its heart. Longsuffering and joying bonds of love create life. Divorce is only a means of grace when this bond becomes a strangle hold toward death.
Choose Committed Life!
Our word is our pledge. Only, in reality, by the grace of God will any promise be kept.
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money." Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that." James 4:13-15
So say it simply. Yes. No. Or, "If the Lord wills." All other props -- "knock on wood," "cross my heart and hope to die," "on my mother's grave" -- are a sham of a power play. Only ONE who has the power to affirm or alter our plans.
Now is the moment for you to wake from sleep.
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers;
the night is far gone, the day is near.
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us live honorably as in the day,
not in reveling and drunkenness,
not in debauchery and licentiousness,
not in quarreling and jealousy.
Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Cardinal Bernardin in the 1980's made great inroads in uniting the strong poles of Catholic activists -- those moved to end war and those charged to stop abortion. In our time, the stretch of the embrace of the church widens to include the threat we all create daily to the life of the poor and the planet. How shall we hear his words now?
I am convinced there is an "open moment" before us on the agenda of life issues. It is a significant opportunity for the Church to demonstrate the strength of a sustained moral vision. I submit that a clear witness to a consistent ethic of life will allow us to grasp the opportunity of this "open moment" and serve both the sacredness of every human life and the God of Life who is the origin and support of our common humanity.
from A Consistent Ethic of Life: Continuing the Dialogue
The William Wade Lecture Series; St. Louis University
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin
March 11, 1984