Monday 22 August 2022

Difficult Teachings - Matthew Kelly - The 40 Most Challenging Teachings of Jesus

Difficult Teachings: 
The 40 Most Challenging Teachings of Jesus
Matthew Kelly
Blue Sparrow Publishing 
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781635822526
eISBN 9781635822694

I loved this book, but was also very frustrated by it. In 2022 during Lent Matthew Kelly released videos every day corresponding to the 40 difficult teachings. The videos were great, as is the book. But when the videos released the book was only available direct from Dynamic Catholic, and there was no eBook edition. Not being in the US, shipping and especially Duty can be ridiculous on books. So I waited for the book to be available in Canada. And waited and waited, eventually the physical book was available and weeks later the eBook. And as someone with a dual form of dyslexia I greatly prefer eBooks, and my son always asks to read Matthew’s books when I am done, he has eye tracking issues and uses eBook often as well to make reading easier. I think it would have been so much more powerful to have had the book, or eBook when the videos first released. There is a link at the beginning of the book to the video series, transcripts of each episode, and a journal you can download and use as you work through the teachings. But back to the book itself.

The description of this volume is:

“Jesus spoke to the people in beautiful parables and beatitudes to encourage and comfort but every teaching challenged every listener.

What's the hardest part about following Jesus? What teaching do you find particularly hard to live?

Explore 40 of Jesus' most difficult teachings with Matthew Kelly. Here's a sampling: Love Your Enemies. Do Not Worry. Do Not Be Afraid. The Narrow Path. Deny Yourself. Hell is Real. The Paradoxical Path. Sell What You Own. I Am the Way. What You Do for the Least.

In a world that is confused about just about everything, the clarity of the Gospel is needed more than ever before. We are all being called to live the Gospel more fully than ever before.”
And the chapters are:

1. Wholeheartedly.
2. Who Is Your Neighbor?
3. Do Not Worry.
4. I Am the Way.
5. Ask. Seek. Knock.
6. Deny Yourself.
7. Love Your Enemies.
8. Come to the Quiet.
9. The Narrow Way.
10. Humble Yourself.
11. Do Not Be Afraid.
12. The Paradoxical Path.
13. You Will Be Persecuted.
14. Follow Me.
15. Pluck Out Your Eye.
16. Whoever is Not Against You.
17. Sell What You Own.
18. Judging Others.
19. Forgiveness.
20. Woe to You.
21. Let Your Light Shine.
22. Lust of the Eyes.
23. Acknowledge Me.
24. Draw From the New and the Old.
25. Confront Those Who Wrong You.
26. Hell is Real.
27. Whatever You Do for the Least.
28. Be Prepared.
29. Not on Bread Alone.
30. Not an Earthly Kingdom.
31. Shake the Dust.
32. What to Expect.
33. Sell What You Own.
34. Turn the Other Cheek
35. Repent.
36. Servant.
37. You Can Lose Your Soul.
38. The Eucharist.
39. Lay Down Your Life.
40. Resurrection.

I highlight 36 passages while reading this book. Some of them were:

“CHRISTIANITY IS DIFFICULT. There is great joy in it, but it challenges us, stretches us, and shows us what we are capable of when we collaborate with God. Jesus didn’t promise an easy life. But for two thousand years, people have been trying to combine Christianity with an easy life. They are incompatible.”

“The reflections in this book explore some of Jesus’ most difficult to live teachings. I have written them to be reflected upon one each day for forty days, but trust that the Spirit will guide you to use this book in the way that is best suited to you at this time in your journey.”

“Now let’s take a look at the first of Jesus’ difficult teachings. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 22, verse 37. This is the Shema Prayer. It is the most repeated prayer in the Jewish tradition, because they believe if you spent your entire lifetime trying to live this one prayer, you would live a deep meaningful life that was exceedingly pleasing to God.”

“Because it turns our lives upside down. Commitment rearranges your priorities and turns your life upside down, so who and what you commit to really matters. Make no mistake, if you fully embraced even one of these teachings we are exploring together, that one teaching would turn your life upside down, but in the most wonderful ways.”

“Jesus invites us to a total love of God and a generous love of neighbor, but he assumes that we already love ourselves. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is a connection between our ability to love ourselves in a healthy way and our ability to love our neighbor. If you despise yourself, and many of us do at different times in our lives, that needs to be attended to.”

“Jesus sets up this triad of teachings as the essence of the Gospel: Love God; love yourself; and love your neighbor. All are necessary to live the rich and full life of a disciple.”

“Worry and anxiety are often the result of violated boundaries. Not other people violating our boundaries but violating our own boundaries. We think we are responsible for things we are not responsible for. I’ll say it again, a lot of worry and anxiety is born because we think we are responsible for things we are not responsible for.”

“When people think of the most challenging teachings of Jesus, this is probably not one that quickly comes to mind. But asking, seeking, and knocking are much more difficult than we realize.”

“Denying yourself in small things, tiny things, seemingly insignificant things, helps you to develop soul strength just like lifting weights would help you to develop muscle strength. You focus on your work when you would rather indulge a distraction, you go for a walk when you don’t feel like it, you have water instead of juice, you have an apple when you really feel like potato chips, and each of these tiny acts of self-denial sets you free, increases your self-possession, strengthens your soul, and exponentially expands your capacity to love and be loved—and Jesus wants you to love and be loved immensely.”

“The teachings of Jesus are full of paradox. It is by denying ourselves that we are set free to live life to the fullest.”

“ARE YOU LIVING A LIFE of focused intention or a life of distraction? We live in a world full of distractions. Is your life less busy and distracting or busier and more distracting than it was a year ago, or five years ago? Take your bearings. Is your life moving in the right direction?”

“Humility is truth. It is false to devalue yourself or your talents. That isn’t humility. Humility is acknowledging the source of your talents. God is the giver of all gifts, the origin of all our talents and abilities, and the source of all goodness and every blessing. You can have exceptional abilities and be humble, you can be an exceptional human being and possess deep humility.”

“Are you following Jesus? If not, why not? And if you’re not following Jesus, who are you following? When I wander off the scary answer is I am following myself. But the scary, scary answer is nobody. Sometimes I wander off and I am just wandering aimlessly in this modern desert.”

“From time to time, we all need to renew our commitment to following Jesus. Perhaps today is that day. Maybe we just need to sit in the classroom of silence and say yes again to following Jesus.”

“Like so many of life’s choices, what we choose to look at either helps us become the-best-version-of-ourselves and leads us closer to God, or it leads us to betray self and God. The reality is we are bombarded with images every day that endanger the health and well-being of your soul. When we say that today’s culture is hypersexualized, most people don’t even blink. The reality is that our culture has gone beyond that and is becoming increasingly pornified.”

“The saints spent a great deal of time contemplating eternity in the presence of God. They spent time pondering the last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. Our unwillingness to turn our minds and conversations toward these things says something about us that warrants further exploration.”

“And what we prepare for, and how we prepare for different things, reveals our priorities. How we prepare announces loud and clear to everyone what we think matters most. And when our values are distorted, we pour our time, effort, and resources into preparing in the wrong ways for the wrong things.”

“A great deal of the pain and suffering we experience in life is caused not by the actual events of our lives, but by the expectations we carried into those moments. When our expectations are not met we respond with disappointment, resentment, anger, frustration, and loss of trust. It is one thing to respond to an event or another person in these ways, it is something completely different to respond to God in these ways.”

“We are mistaken if we think the choice is between laying down our lives and not laying down our lives. The question is not, are you going to lay down your life? No, that’s not the question. The question is, what are you going to lay down your life in service of?”

“Wherever you are in your faith journey, if you yearn for a deeper faith, a stronger faith, a more practical faith, a faith that keeps you focused on what matters most and gives you the grace to let go of what matters least—spend more time getting to know Jesus!”

I hope those quotes give you a feel for the content of this excellent volume. I have said it before and I say it again, I know some people who have no use for Matthew Kelly’s books, and even others who think they are trite and even worse. I have even had readers ask me with all I read and review why I would pick up and read Kelly’s books. My answer is always twofold; first I have benefited from everything of his I have read or listened to. Second his books meet people where they are. We are not all theologians or academics. This book can be read by any Catholic or Christian and I believe they would benefit from it. My son who is 15 has started this book and keeps talking about it so much his 12 year old sisters has asked to start reading it. That is another reason I read Kelly’s books. They are great reads for tweens, teen and adults. 

This was another excellent volume from Kelly’s pen. I have several of his older works in my ‘to be read pile’ and every time I finish a new one they jump in that ‘to be read’ list. A great read. I encourage you to give it a read, watch the videos, and journal your way through these 40 teachings. I guarantee you will experience growth and be challenged by the reading of this book.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Matthew Kelly:
I Know Jesus
The Long View
Decision Point: The Workbook
Decision Point: The Leader Guide
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
The One Thing
Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction
Why Am I Here?
Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness
Perfectly Yourself Discovering God's Dream For You
Building Better Families: A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing Children
The Dream Manager
The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved
The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose
Building Better Families - 5 Practical Ways to Build Family Spirituality
The Book of Courage
The Shepherd: A Modern Parable about Our Search for Happiness
Mustard Is Persecution, Matthew Kelly Foundation
A Call to Joy - Living in the Presence of God
The Rhythm of Life: An Antidote For Our Busy Age
Words from God
Resisting Happiness
The Narrow Path
Our Father
The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity
Why I Love Being Catholic
Good Night, Jesus
In a world where you can be anything ...

Beautiful ... Series:

Rediscover Books by Matthew Kelly:
Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose
Rediscover Advent
Rediscover Lent
Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation
Rediscover the Rosary: The Modern Power of an Ancient Prayer
Rediscover the Saints

Audio by Matthew Kelly from Lighthouse Media:
Becoming The Best Version Of Yourself
The Best Way To Live
Don't Just Try, Train
Faith At Work & The Holy Moment
The Four Signs Of A Dynamic Catholic - Excerpt
The Jesus Question
My Spiritual Journey
Our Lives Change When Our Habits Change
Raising Amazing Children
The Seven Levels Of Intimacy
The Seven Pillars Of Catholic Spirituality

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