Be Perfect

The United States is at a crossroads. Regrettably, all of us listened to our parents, teachers and Walt Disney, who conspired to convince us that we should believe in ourselves–and now, everyone believes in themselves. It’s a disaster. 

We believe in ourselves and thus believe that our ideas, preferences and personal beliefs hold universal authority. When daily life demonstrates that our beliefs are not universal, we push back–sometimes violently–to silence all those who threaten our mental perfection. Did I say mental? Yes, I did. We are mental.

The problem with mental perfection is that it’s a fraud. We enshrine ourselves in a temple dedicated to self-serving ideals and declare ourselves the perfect example of the righteousness of these ideals. Religious people do it, liberals and conservatives do it, and those who seek power love it because you can ride self-righteousness like a tidal wave, all the way to the top. 

The perfection that Jesus demands in the Gospel of Matthew is different. It’s a perfection that shames us and strips us of power. It’s a perfection that makes clear—in no uncertain terms—that we are not to believe in ourselves; that we are a fraud; that we cannot accomplish the most basic requirements of human morality, let alone the demands of the Torah. It’s a perfection that can only be realized in our defeat on the cross, the symbol of a teaching that consigns all perfection to the dead.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:40-48.


Episode 251 Matthew 5:40-48; Subscribe:; “Fearless First” Kevin MacLeod ( ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Empty Promises

People love to talk about what they want to do, what they should do or what they believe is right. We love it. We go online to brag about it and to cajole each other. Everyone is a fake preacher. We give lip service to lofty ideals (lying to ourselves and each other) pretending to be people of great deeds, but our words, like our promises, are empty platitudes. No, they are worse than that, because when we cast our vanity on the world, we lift ourselves up at the expense of those whose suffering is actual. This is the banality of evil and we are living it.

Unlike our lofty ideals, the crisis of poverty; the vile stench of greed; the abyss of human ignorance; the plague of hatred; and the scourge of violence that now threaten our country are not theoretical. Those of us who hear the Lord’s teaching must not talk about what we want to do or what should be done. We must act as we have been commanded. For the Lord said, “Do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:39)

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:33-39.

This weeks episode is presented in loving honor of the victims of the synagogue massacre in Pittsburg. May they find rest with all the saints in the bosom of Abraham; and may their memory—in fellowship with the righteous teaching for which they died—be assuredly eternal.


Episode 250 Matthew 5:33-39; Subscribe:; “Dreams Become Real” Kevin MacLeod ( ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Love is Not a Feeling

To our peril, we think about love and relationships in terms of how we feel about a person or how that person makes us feel. This attitude is understandable in children, but when adults think this way in marriage, the failure of their household becomes the failure of our neighborhoods, our communities, and, sooner or later, civil society.

In the Sermon on the Mount, the love that Jesus preaches has nothing to do with how we feel. In fact, through Jesus’ strict application of Torah, the worse the commandment makes us feel—the more uncomfortable pressure it puts on us—the better our chances of learning how to love others correctly. Yes, that’s right; in the Gospel of Matthew, not only is love not a feeling, but almost always, the love imposed by the Lord’s commandment goes against what we feel. It is only when our feelings are overrun by this commandment that we have any chance of acting correctly toward our neighbor.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:27-32.


Episode 249 Matthew 5:27-32; Subscribe:; “Hiding Your Reality” Kevin MacLeod ( ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Every Last Cent

Christians come up with strange explanations as to the relationship between the Law of Moses and Pauline grace. Maybe, they argue, only part of the Law is valid—like the Ten Commandments—but the rest is draconian and Jesus came to rescue us from legalism. Others claim, maybe, because of grace, Jesus is saying that we can do whatever we want and trust that God will make it OK. My favorite explanation is what I call the combo platter: “You see, Fr. Marc, we need both grace and the work of our hands. It’s a deep partnership with God.”

Really? Partnership? Do you really believe that? Please, help me understand the way in which the creator of the heavens and earth is dependent on you for anything. If that’s true, then maybe Paul was wrong. Maybe you are something. Still, it’s more likely that Paul was right: that we are nothing when we think that we are something. Maybe that’s why Matthew compels us to give an account for every last minuscule detail of the Mosaic Law. Not so that we can get grace as a consolation prize (like magic pixie dust) but so that we can be humbled and broken with Jesus on the Cross into understanding that God of Moses has been graceful all along.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:19-26.


Episode 248 Matthew 5:19-26; Subscribe:; “River Fire” Kevin MacLeod ( ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Not One Iota

“Being instructed out of the Law,” are you “confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, [and] a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth?” (Romans 2:18-21) “Are you confident,” Paul asks in Romans, “Are you sure that you are a light the blind?”

When Jesus says that “you are the salt of the earth” or “you are the light of the world” do you really believe that you are the light? The Law, in which you boast, is the light to the blind which you yourself do not heed. “You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? [Indeed] ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ just as it is written.” (Romans 2:23-24) So be careful when you boast. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter [not one iota] or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18)

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:15-18.


Episode 247 Matthew 5:15-18; Subscribe:; “Miami Viceroy” Kevin MacLeod ( ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Salt of the Earth

If an author writes the words, “red lead,” is she directing a person named Red to lead a group of people or is she referring to a lead based substance that is colored red, as in, “red lead?” If she is speaking and we cannot see the spelling of her words, is she informing her audience that she read a book about leadership, or was it an essay about lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan’s water supply? You get the point. Context is paramount for understanding.

When Jesus says, “you are the salt of the earth,” and then talks about a loss of flavor, what does he mean? Actual salt cannot lose its flavor, but according to Jesus, his followers are definitely at risk of losing their flavor. If we can lose our saltiness, that means that whatever made us the “salt of the earth” was put into us. How are we to discern what this thing is and how it works? How are we to understand the phrase, “you are the salt of the earth?” The answer is context.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:13-14.

This week’s episode is presented in honor Fr. Paul Tarazi’s 75th birthday. May God grant him many years.


Episode 246 Matthew 5:13-14; Subscribe:; “Thinking Music” Kevin MacLeod ( ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Blessings and Insults

The suffering of others should make us feel ashamed. When we see a neighbor in need, in poor health, overcome by calamity or besieged by violence, their burden is both a call to action and a check on our ego. Honestly, what right have we to complain about anything in the face of our neighbor’s misfortune? Regrettably, we routinely appropriate such shame as a means of influence. Politicians spin suffering to promote anger and a spirit of self-righteousness while victims point to misfortune as an excuse for cruelty. So what are we to make of the words of Jesus, “Blessed are you when people insult you?”

“Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)

According to St. Paul’s sternly-worded instruction, the question as to which suffering is worthy of Christ’s blessing cannot be determined before the judgment. In Matthew, the criterion for this final test is not whether or not you suffered, but whether or not your suffering was for the right reason.

You may want to hold off cashing in your blessings before the time.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:9-12.Listen:

Episode 245 Matthew 5:9-12; Subscribe:; “Zap Beat” Kevin MacLeod ( ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0

Clarity of Purpose

Hunger and thirst are clarifying. When you are desperate for a drink of water, or you have not eaten in days, your biological needs control your actions. In turn, your actions reorder your thoughts, and you acquire clarity of vision—you know what you want, you know it when you see it, you know what you need to do, and you see the world around you in these terms. Now imagine that your biological need for food and drink is co-opted by the obligation to hear and obey God’s teaching. Your hunger and thirst for this teaching lead you to act with mercy toward others, which, in turn, organizes your mind. Your mind, now clear of distraction (a phrase usually translated as “purity of heart”) is wholly conformed to this teaching, allowing you to see God in the world around you.

“Blessed [indeed] are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:6-8.


Episode 244 Matthew 5:6-8; Subscribe:; “Mystery Sax” Kevin MacLeod ( ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

The Fruit of the Spirit

When we hear the Beatitudes for the first time, it’s tempting to philosophize—about poverty, humility, sadness, etc.—as though the Beatitudes themselves are a bunch of Greek platitudes. But if you’ve been with our podcast from the early days, you know a couple of things: 1) that Scripture refers to itself, interprets itself, and does not look outside of itself for meaning, and 2) that Scripture is written in opposition to Greek Philosophy. To treat Jesus like a philosopher who spouts philosophical platitudes is anti-Scriptural. So what is Jesus talking about in the Beatitudes? What is he teaching? The very same thing everything in the Bible teaches and refers to: the Law of Moses.

Richard and I discuss Matthew 5:1-5.


Episode 243 Matthew 5:1-5; Subscribe:; “Twisting” Kevin MacLeod ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Direct My Footsteps

When we talk about behavior, we imagine that a degree of separation exists between our thoughts and our actions—as the saying goes, between mind and body—but this is incorrect. Just as a muscle integrates with fat and bone, our thoughts (themselves biological) fully integrate with our behaviors. In the Bible, there is no distinction between mind and body; both are flesh. As such, Biblical healing comes not from discussion but through obedience. Like a chiropractor, the Lord’s commandment corrects the position of your bone, and your muscle falls in place. That’s why the priority of biblical wisdom is to correct, protect, and direct your footsteps. If you can do what the Lord instructs you to do, the rest will take care of itself.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 4:23-25.


Episode 242 Matthew 4:23-25; Subscribe:; “Werq” Kevin MacLeod ( ( Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/