I occasionally deal with people who have a literal understanding of scripture. Then there are others who have a selective reading of whether or not to be literal. So, they would be loath to gouge out their eye or chop off an arm if these body parts lead them to sin, but they have no problem taking literally today’s Gospel injunction to be exceedingly self-giving.

Did someone say that we should be doormats? Niceness becomes a virtue! I don’t think that Jesus ever suggested that we be nice. I think that more helpful is a discerned approach to whatever scripture passage we are reading. That usually leads to a more discerned way of relating to others.

Turn the other cheek? Give your cloak as well? Go the second mile? Do not refuse anyone who begs from you? Jesus invites us to a more perfect way of relating to people. Today’s Gospel from Matthew is challenging. A discerned reading of it suggests a hierarchy of who I should offer my kindness and possessions to. That hierarchy is not rooted in who I like or a personal sense of who deserves my help.

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