When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you
Gospel text (Mt 5:38-48): Jesus said to his disciples: «You have heard that it was said: 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give when asked and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.
»You have heard that it was said: 'Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy'. But this I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? For your part you shall be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect».
Jesus sounds so naive in this reading by today's standards (or any times standards for that matter). He is literally calling us to make a U-turn, and live a radically different lifestyle. Following Jesus is not just a modification of a worldly life, but an utterly new way to live. The old law of Talion from the book of Exodus (cf. Ex 21,23-35), that was to be the law to avoid all revenge and restrict "eye for an eye", the terror of war, is definitively superseded by the law of love. We are given, in these verses, an entire Carta Magna for moral belief; love of God and thy neighbor. We have heard this saying many times in our lives, and one would think we'd have it down by now. However, loving your neighbor is actually a hard thing to do. It is a daily commitment that takes effort and patience on one’s part, and depending on the day, a person may or may not be in the “love thy neighbor” mood.
Pope Benedict XIV tells us, «it is only through service to others that opens my eyes as to what God does for me and to how much He loves me». Jesus gives us a law whereby justice is infinite, whereby evil is not defeated by causing more hurt, but by expelling it entirely from our lives, thereby reducing its hold on us.
In order to triumph, Jesus tells us, one must have a strong hold of our own interior lives and be clear by which law we live, that of unconditional love, free and magnanimous. Love led Him to the Cross, as love triumphs over hate. This is the way to victory, without violence, with humility and abundant love as God is love translated into action. If our actions are driven by this same love that will not abandon us, Our Father will recognize us as his children. This is the perfect pat, one of superabundant love that places us in the current of the kingdom, whose most loyal expression is the sublime manifestation of overflowing love that God has drenched our hearts with through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5,5).
This little story illustrates today’s teaching:
A father recently told me of taking a walk with his son recently. They passed a young homeless man asking for money. The two walked by the man, but the nine year old looked up at his dad and asked why the father had not given some money to the man. So the father gave the son two dollars to return and give to him. Upon returning the lad asked what it meant to be homeless. When the father told him, the little fellow replied that they could have him live with them in their house.
The father said that there wasn’t any room for the man in their house. The lad noticed they were passing a large hotel. The youngster figured out that there would be lots of room in the hotel and why didn’t they fix it so the homeless man would be okay?
The father was being slapped on one cheek and had to turn the other. We all are called by this Gospel and we are beginning to feel the tension into which Jesus calls us. We all have the same good desires as the little boy. We all have felt the “pagan” side of us as well. We all would want that there be no more homeless on our streets and we all have had to keep on walking past the roomy hotels with money in our pockets. We are the imperfect trying to become more light and more salt. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary show us the way - Ave Maria!