Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.
‘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; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
Of course, at some level, many of us think that we already are perfect! Even as at another many of us know we are far from perfect and that we are hurting ourselves and othersw as a result.
The Gospel for Mass on the Sunday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time offers us counsel and guidance as, conflicted, we continue to respond to the invitation of the Lord to come close and learn from him, and be comforted by him.
And the guidance is to be open to the ‘other’, even those one we experience as aggresively other, as ‘enemies’. The way forward is to see them as like us, made in the image and likeness of God, and loved by him. We may hate what they do, and work to overcome the harm they do, but not by doing harm ourselves to the bond of love that rightly exists between all human beings. We are invited to build up communion, not to fragment it still further.
Think of someone you ‘hate’.
- How are you different from them?
- How the same?
- What might help you reflect God’s love to them – to perhaps change them, and you?
‘Where’s the difference?’ Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris