7th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A – 23rd February 2020 — Gospel: Matthew 5,38-48
Radical Love for God’s Kingdom
Through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus continues to offer two more illustrations of how his teaching fulfills the Torah of Israel, clarifying its deepest meaning and restoring its original divine intention. He instructs his disciples to love beyond limits and points out our enemies as those who needed more of our love.
The first concerns the new way to get justice. Revenge comes easily to the human race. We have a natural tendency to retaliate when anyone harms us. But Jesus instructs his followers to shun hitting back in all its forms; we should even go the “second mile” in doing more than the enemy asks. This is radically new approach to the question of grievances. The four somewhat witty yet serious examples offered by Jesus teach disciples not to passively submit to injustice, but to respond in a creative, non-violent way. In all the illustrations, Jesus encourages his followers to respond with disproportionate kindness, prompting the good with a generous, benevolent response. This kind of response interrupts a cycle of violent revenge in a creative way, nudging the aggressor towards repentance and a cycle of generosity. In a way, through these examples Jesus offers nonviolent resistance to oppressive power. Though the actions of the powerful dishonours and humiliates the inferior, yet the individual’s voluntary behaviour refuses submission, asserts dignity and humanness, and challenges what is supposed to demean.
The next illustration teaches on the fundamental importance of disciples love. We all love our friends, but love of our enemies is quite another matter. For Jesus, love even for enemies gets at the heart of the commandment’s divine intent and goal. His teachings transcend typical human practice and call his disciples to love without boundaries. Jesus demands love even of enemies, simply because the God whom they serve is a loving God, and therefore they are to be loving people. From sunrise to raindrops, the Father shows equal love towards good and bad, not because he is indifferent to morality but because he loves without limit. The disciples love because that is what the nature of discipleship involves. The disciples, being the sons of the Father, must prove their ‘legitimacy’ by showing the family likeness, which means loving others with all-embracing love their Father bestows. The “more” that true sons must exhibit is the eschatological morality of mercy without measure. “To be perfect” is not the ideal of the monk; it is the obligation of every Christian.
Jesus’ third way: grab the moral initiative, find a creative alternative to violence, assert your own humanity and dignity as a person, meet force with ridicule or humor, break the cycle of humiliation, refuse the inferior position, shame the oppressor, be willing to suffer. Such actions exhibit different relationships and manifest the destabilizing, transforming reign of God. The love is offered not because Jesus thinks that it will change the enemy into something else: certainly, love might confuse him. Love is offered because that is what the disciple of the kingdom should do. His script proceeds from who he is, not from what he receives from others. For Jesus, love is his way and it stays with his way no matter what appears on the agenda. Up on the cross he stayed with his supreme love because that emerged from who he was as the Son of the Father.