I suppose we would find it hard to imagine being in the presence of Jesus and not recognizing him. It's hard to imagine that He would be just another face in the crowd, and that there would be nothing remarkable or exceptional that would make him stand out from all the rest. But it wasn't that way. He was misunderstood, people missed the point and there were even those who plotted against him. I imagine many may have walked by Jesus without noticing anything out of the ordinary or thought-provoking. Maybe they needed a special sign in order to recognize Him. And maybe the same is true today.
In today's passage from Matthew's Gospel we listen to a passage within the Sermon on the Mount. As the Sermon unfolds, Jesus leads us higher and higher up another mountain, a different kind of mountain. His words move us onto the loftier planes of greater faith and love. Jesus is very specific here. if we choose to follow Him, then it isn't enough just to avoid murder, or adultery, perjury or divorce. He challenges us to heroic love - a love that will not simply settle for keeping the letter of the law.
It's a great temptation for most of us to want to be LIKE everyone else and to BE LIKED BY everyone else. Usually, that means lowering our standards. It involves compromise, and an unwillingness to be different. But according to Jesus, we should not be trying to please other people, but rather God our Father, who invites us to keep working for the high ideal of a perfection that mirrors His own goodness and holiness.
Life on this "other mountain" could be quite extraordinary. There would be no anger, no abusive language, no simmering resentments and rivalries, no unbridled sexual abuse, no casual attitude toward commitment in relationships, no lip service to justice and truth. Our attitudes would reflect the spirit of Jesus in all things - compassion, forgiveness, self control , and a single-hearted dedication to loving God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves.
Living the Gospel could change the quality of life at home, at work, at play and at worship. But this is no easy task. Heroic love cannot be bought in a bargain basement. It is the result of climbing, higher and higher. It involves profound commitment, real self-sacrifice and, most of all, a loving, personal loyalty to Jesus.
The act of faith is a journey, a series of moments when God becomes real. It is a conscious, personal relationship with God that reaches fulfillment within community. And it must be grounded in the mature act of faith that was expressed by Jesus Himself.
We are drawn to the story of Jesus because this story reveals not only who God is, but also our ability as human beings to give expression to God's Spirit. We use this story to articulate our understanding of life and of who we are. If we can make the story of Jesus our own story then the reign of God would indeed be seen among us and Christianity would have something of great value to share and explore with all people who search for the meaning of human existence.
On this "other mountain" we are nourished by the words of the Teacher and Lord and try to walk in his footsteps. Here we are called to a different way of living, in our relationships to each other and then to the world. We seek reconciliation where there is anger and alienation. We forego our own desires despite the weaknesses of the world around us. We are faithful to one another and so, when we make promises, we keep them.
Human actions have specific consequences. We are free to live our live as Jesus asks, or not. As difficult as these choices may be at times, our faith leads us to hear words of encouragement: “trust in God, you too will live.”