Craig in Spanish Class
February 12,2023 Matthew 5:17-37
When I was in college I honestly took Spanish 101 for the fun of it. Meanwhile Craig, the young man sitting next to me in class, was only there to fulfill the language requirement for his degree. Despite our different approaches to college we still enjoyed talking to each other.
After about a month of chitchat he turned to me in class one day with a horrified look on his face and exclaimed, ”You’re one of those people that wakes up early each morning with a to-do list and then spends the rest of the day working through your list!”
I immediately perked up. “Yes”, I said proudly. “That’s me! Is there any other way to be?”
“Yes," he replied, ”You roll out of bed around noon and then do whatever you feel like doing.” Now I was the one with the horrified look on their face. What sort of lazy life was that? I assumed everyone was scurrying around like me: goal-setting, working hard, studying, achieving. I thought those were the rules.
For many of us (me included), we feel we are rewarded when we follow the rules. If we study hard, we get good grades, we go onto a good job, and usually the better we do at our job the more money we make. Along the way we are cheered on and not told to do anything differently by our parents, teachers, coaches and friends. We’re accustomed to being evaluated and rewarded, and expect it to work in every part of our life.
I imagine if I lived in Jesus' time, I would have made an outstanding Pharisee with their love for rules. In today’s gospel Jesus says what the law is and then takes the law even further to make it seemingly impossible to achieve. In a way he’s saying to the Pharisees (and to us) that we can follow the rules but what if following the rules isn’t achievable, and actually not the point? What if attending mass on Sunday and all the holy days of obligation and believing all the rules of the Church doesn’t get me ahead of anyone else. What if all the volunteer time that some of us provide, while needed and worthwhile, does not earn us any extra credit with Jesus? Here’s the part I have a hard time swallowing: my rule following and good works alone do not earn me Jesus' love. Instead I have to rely on Jesus to give me this gift, and he gives it freely.
Craig (who probably only remembers the word ‘hola’ from Spanish class) and I are both given the same gift of eternal life through Jesus.