Year A: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 5: 38-48
Jesus continues His instructions for Kingdom living - and again, the emphasis is on our inner disposition than on our outward actions.
At first sight this may seem harder than giving us straightforward rules and regulations but, in fact, is born of a profound understanding of human psychology and spirituality!
We know we can fool most of the time - we can even fool ourselves some of the time - but we cannot fool God any of the time - and even when we think we have fooled ourselves, the truth eventually catches up with us!
And so, Jesus asks us to develop a disposition of love. He asks us to go beyond the easy love of those who like us - and to stretch it to those who positively hate us. As He says, it is easy to love those who love us back - the real challenge is - can we love those who donít?
He offers a few examples of how we can show this - which are, in fact, more explosive than they sound.
For example - to strike someone on the right cheek means - for right-handed people - a back-handed slap. This was reserved for inferiors - slaves - and, sadly wives and children. But, if as an inferior, you turned and offered the other cheek - you would be challenging the aggressor to hit you again - but either with his left hand - or with the open-hand he might use with an equal... In other words - you were stating your own self-worth without saying a word.
Equally, if someone demands the clothing you wear - who is ultimately more ashamed if you stand naked because you have chosen to over-compensate your creditor by giving everything you are wearing?
And finally, Roman law gave the soldiers the right to demand that the local population carry their pack for one mile - no more. Imagine their consternation if they come across someone who cheerfully continues to carry the load - beyond what was reasonable - or lawful - to demand.
Suddenly, they are not the person in charge!
The examples Jesus might use today would obviously be different - but they would still stem from the same disposition - you may hate and exploit me but I refuse to hate you...
What does it mean for me?
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