Now, the easy way to deal with this of course would be to ignore it. Write it off. “Oh Jesus didn’t mean that!” The truth is, I don’t know why Jesus said something that seems so harsh and even cruel. There is also no way to know exactly why he changed his mind and anything anyone comes up with is speculation at best. Regardless, it is there. It was worthwhile enough that the writer of Matthew’s gospel included it. It is always so easy to pick through what we like in scripture. We focus on the things that resonate with and mean the most to us. The parts that are difficult though, are the parts we ought to listen to the most. God is always speaking to us through every part of the Bible. Whether or not we like it, we need to wrestle with it. Why doesn’t it resonate? Why am I resisting something God might be saying to me? Is it to difficult? Does it challenge the way I live my life and the values I uphold? Spending time with the word of God, even if it means wrestling with the difficult words, opens us up to God’s revelation. We can’t just pick the easy parts. Jesus showed us clearly that following God’s will does not make for a life that is always easy.
Imagine for a moment what you could learn about God’s revelation if you would set aside for just one day, even just one hour, your need to be right, your need to be safe, your need to be in charge. Imagine if you set these aside and fully, truly accepted that the Lord would never leave you to destruction, never forsake you to an eternal death. What could you learn? How would you grow? Think for a moment about the locks you put on your trust, on your love, on your hope. How many are there? Can you count them? Do you believe that hoarding the gifts God has given you will earn you compound interest in heaven? Or that a cautious, meager charity will benefit you in the long run? Gifts left unused for the good of your neighbors will eventually atrophy and die, leaving behind a bitter waste, an angry, soured soul. There is nothing child-like about living your life in resentment and disappointment. Our Father will never abandon us. What is there for us to fear? Nothing. Nothing at all.
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, Ph.D., Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!, “Only the child-like”.