This Gospel lesson is daunting. Jesus says that we fall short of God’s reign if even our most trivial-seeming thoughts and attitudes fall short of mutual love. (Lust, for example, falls short of mutual love; it’s a selfish desire to possess another.) To rest content with anything less than mutual love, extending even to our thoughts and attitudes, is to settle for a hell of our own making. (And the hells we might make for ourselves are far worse than any threats of punishment by somebody else.)
We live in a world where everything matters, even our most trivial-seeming thoughts and attitudes. Today’s lesson dwells on the downside of that truth. But there’s an upside. True, in a world where everything matters, settling for anything less than mutual love moves us into a hell on earth. But it’s just as true that, in a world where everything matters, any deep longing for mutual love moves us into a heaven on earth.
We need to remember that today’s lesson is a continuation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The blessed are those who find themselves in a world devastatingly remote from a world of mutual love, and yet who long for nothing less.
Blessed are those who are unsettled, precisely because they are not settling!
Blessed are those who never let the unhappy circumstances of their surroundings rob them of their longing for this world of mutual love.
To let these circumstances rob you of that deep longing is to be cursed already. That’s daunting. But we live in a world where everything matters. The circumstances of your surroundings, no matter how unhappy, cannot prevent your longing for mutual love from having an impact on the whole world. That’s liberating.