The One Upper

I once lived with a friar who was a notorious one-upper. For every story that everyone else in the house would tell of their lives, he had a better one. After a while, it became so obnoxious that we really wondered if he wasn’t making much of it up. Then the game began, and some of us would make up outrageously ridiculous stories just to see if he would take the bait and counter with an even more outlandish story that couldn’t possibly be true. Needless to say, he is no longer “with the firm”. Aside from this guy’s poor self-image that caused him often to need to take the spotlight, I think we have all known people whose life experience is greater than our own. The question is how do we relate to them?

This Sunday’s Gospel gives us more of the Sermon on the Mount with Jesus challenging his listeners to envision a reality greater than their current lived experience. He “one-ups” the Law by citing pieces of it and then giving his “fuller” rendition of it. Imagine how obnoxious this must have been for his listeners to endure. The Law was good enough for them and for their ancestors: who was this man to claim that he had something “fuller”?

The fact is that we are in a much better position to receive this Sunday’s Gospel than were his initial listeners. We have the benefit of knowing who Jesus is and that his Passion, Death and Resurrection backed up his message. But not only do we have the benefit of knowing he is trustworthy, we also have the benefit of knowing that what “I say to you” is in fact “fuller”. Jesus is clear. He does not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, and he does so in his person as well as in the truth of his message. Knowing that looking with lust is the heart of adultery, helps us to see a fuller understanding of the kind of committed love to which we are all called.

Jesus comes today to fulfill our lives. Only he can satisfy our deepest longings and heal our most open wounds. And yet, he does not come to abolish our lives. That is the fear that the current day listener of Jesus confronts. We fear that he is the ultimate one-upper who desires to negate our experience and replace it with his own. But that is so far from the case. Let us recognize in humility that our limited experience needs something more, something that only someone greater can provide. That our daily experience while good, can be taken to wonderful with the presence of Christ. Allow Jesus and his message to fulfill his promise of healing and glory, if we simply let him one-up us.

Peace,

Fr. Mike
fr.mike@duke.edu  c. 919-316-8763 / w. 919-684-1882
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