An antithesis is a figure of speech in which an opposition or contrast of ideas is expressed by a connection of meaning through a connection of form. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stands everything we think we know on its head. He redefines happiness (Beatitudes) not for what the world thinks is happiness, but in a manner consistent with how God created us to be happy.
Following the Beatitudes, Jesus presents 6 antitheses. He uses the form, “You have heard that it was said…” “But I say to you…” to connect the teachings and to take us beyond the written word of the law to spirit or purpose for which the law was written. He even goes so far as to present the literal interpretation of the law as opposed to the purpose of the law.
The first reading also uses a connection of form to set up concepts which the world sees as opposites. The world sees affliction as a constraint against happiness. St. Paul says, we are afflicted, but we are not constrained. The world sees being perplexed as a road to despair, St. Paul says we are perplexed, but we do not despair. The world sees being persecuted as an abandonment, St. Paul says we are persecuted, but we are never abandoned. The world sees being struck down as being destroyed. St. Paul says we are struck down, but we are not destroyed. Why? We carry within us the death of Jesus so that His life may be manifested, incarnated, may live in the world through us!
We are people who don’t shy away from the crucifix. We look upon the death of Jesus and see his arms outstretched for us. We see that suffering and pain and being perplexed and struck down are not the path to despair and destruction. We look at Jesus on the crucifix and we see the power of his Sacred Heart. When we look at the crucifix, we see the incarnation, the love of God made flesh. We see Jesus’ merciful heart, wrapped in bands of thorns, on fire with the Holy Spirit.
As we pause today, part way between Pentecost and the Feast of the Sacred Heart we read about the relationship between the law and our life. Jesus shows us that it isn’t about just following the law, it is about living the spirit of the law. “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” Jesus isn’t advocating self-mutilation, Jesus is telling us that nothing, nothing is as important as love. Nothing is as important as living the rest of eternity in the presence of love itself. As we look back on Pentecost and forward to the Feast of the Sacred Heart, let us love. For in love is happiness, not happiness as the world defines, but God’s true happiness found in a heart wrapped in thorns and on fire with the Holy Spirit.
If you catch Sheryl sitting still, you are most likely to find her nose stuck in a book. It may be studying with her husband, Tom as he goes through Diaconate Formation, trying to stay one step ahead of her 5th and 6th-grade students at St Rose of Lima Catholic School or preparing for the teens she serves as Director of Youth Evangelization and Outreach in her parish collaborative. You can reach her through https://www.ignitedinchristnacc.com/.