Sunday 19 February 2023
Matt 5:38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven… Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
(Matt 5:38-39,43-45a,48)

It is interesting to note how some aspects of the Mosaic Law, taken up by Jesus, speak to current times and how we Christians often aren’t able to put them into practice. For example, let’s think about the law on retaliation and ask ourselves: can I always respond with the same intensity to the wrong done to me? Is it not spontaneous for us to respond with an even greater reaction? Having been on the receiving end of a wrong, I feel it is a right to respond with greater impetus! And so an escalation cycle begins, leading to family quarrels, separations, or even actual wars between nations. How often do we manage to forgive, accept or welcome our enemy? Normally, our ‘enemy’ is right inside our house, among our family relations.

And here is where the law that Jesus brings to fulfillment comes in to play, the law that He exemplifies: the law of Love. As Christians, we are called to never ‘throw in the towel’ when it comes to being willing and ready to forgive, to rekindle relationships and fight for each other, through the grace that works within us: not because we trust in our own strength, or because we are holy, but because the Holy One lives and acts in us, if we allow Him to. The grace of God also makes us understand that often our enemy is someone distant from the Lord, meaning that they are a person in need.

Jesus gives us a very strong, unequivocal order: to be perfect like your heavenly Father. The Father isn’t great just because He is the Creator, but even more so because He is merciful. In fact, in Luke’s Gospel, the Evangelist doesn’t say “be perfect”, but “be merciful, like your Father”.

We are called to fly high and leave it to the Spirit to act, to let go of resentment, spite and grudges, and even hatred in our hearts, in order to be channels of forgiveness in the image of our Father in Heaven.

Fr. Giuseppe