In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus continues with putting His mark on the Old Law: “You heard it said (referring to the Law and Prophets)”…… “but I say this to you”. “You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” The Old Law which Jesus refers to can be found in the book of Exodus (21:23-25) “ If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe”. This law was served as a guide for a judge in a law court for assessing punishment and penalty (see Deuteronomy 19:18) – to make sure that the punishment is fair (i.e. one is not to exact more than what was dished out). Sadly some read it as a demand to be a tit for tat approach to life.
Our Lord gives a new approach, based not just on the requirements of justice – i.e. giving each their due – but based on the law of grace and love. We must learn not only to avoid returning evil for evil, but we must seek the good of those who wish us ill. Why? Because God is good to the unjust as well as the just. God’s love embraces saints and sinners alike.
God always seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. That is the challenge of the Christian faith; to learn to treat others, not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated – with loving-kindness and mercy. It is difficult, but not impossible: otherwise it is not a challenge.
God bless Fr Michael
But I say this to you (Part II)