On the Gospel of Matthew 5:38-48
7th Sunday of Ordinary Time
We’ve all heard and read that Jesus said to love your enemies, but are the demands Jesus makes of us in this Gospel reading, really something that we can apply to our lives? Jesus would seem to be making impossible and even unreasonable demands of us when we read this gospel at first. There is room here for much misinterpretation so it is crucial that we first understand what Jesus is not saying.
Jesus is not telling people who are being bullied to accept their fate and allow themselves to be abused. Nor is he telling us to allow other people to deny us our basic human rights and to be taken advantage of. In todays’ gospel Jesus is not telling us to be a holy door mat! Nor are we expected to allow others to take us to the cleaners by giving them every penny they ask for!
What Jesus is telling us, is that God is love, and we find our true happiness on the path of love, which is the Cross. It is by giving all that we receive all. We can see two types of people in this Gospel. One is happy and content amidst all sorts of abuse thrown at him, while the other is clearly agited and unhappy. The type of person who would slap someone on the cheek, take you to court for your tunic, and force you to walk a mile with him, is not a happy person! By contrast if you can manage to be slapped on the face and then offer the other cheek as well, taken to court and robbed, and walk 2 miles when you are forced to walk only 1 mile, then you must have something special, something or someone that allows you to remain calm and content amidst it all.
This is not to say life is easy for the person who fulfills these demands of Christ. Doing what’s right is going to be difficult and it will mean making some very real, and sometimes painful, sacrifices and decisions. Loving someone who persecutes you or hits you is not easy. But we can do it because we know we are loved by God, and this reality means we can face all the challenges and crosses that life throws our way. The love of Christ compels us to love our enemies. From Christ we draw strength, and with Christ we can do great things.
What it comes down to is this: that the happy man may only ever possess Christ, but if he has that, he has everything. While the unhappy man may possess everything in th ewhole world, but if he does not have Christ, he has nothing, and everything he has will never be enough for him.
In the ancient Roman Empire, it was said of the early Christians of these centuries by the pagan Romans, how these Christians loved each other and cared for people. The love they showed to their neighbours, even amidst all the persecutions against them, was noticed and that love eventually converted the entire Roman Empire. Our world today cries out for another such conversion. Let us heed the words of Christ in the gospel and love our neighbours. With such love, we will once again convert the world.
“You have heard how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer no resistance to the wicked. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if someone wishes to go to law with you to get your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone requires you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks you, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away. You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Do not even the gentiles do as much? You must therefore set no bounds to your love, just as your heavenly Father sets none to his.”
– Matthew 5:38-48