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Friday, 17 February 2023 16:30

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - 2023

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:38-48

Fr Elmer Ibarra 150 BestDuring the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was asked, “How can we get rid of our enemies?” He then asked his generals about their war strategies so that they could win battles. Then Abraham Lincoln said, “We can get rid of our enemies by making them our friends”.

The gospel for today tells us of the continuation of the “sayings of Jesus” at the Sermon on the Mount. The gospel continues on how Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law instead of its abolisher.

 LOVE your enemies TwitterThe law “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” or lex talionis or The Law of Talion is actually very beneficial to society and many of our laws are based on this “Law of Talion”. This law prevented us from taking retaliation too far. Before Lex Talionis, there was a law of retaliation where one was required to pay up several times over the amount that somebody stole. For example, a life of a person maybe demanded if you stole a camel. And there are some societies still doing it now, like for example, hands are being chopped off if one is caught stealing. So actually the law “an eye for an eye…” is already an improvement for society to be civilised and outlawing these barbaric practices.

However for Jesus, he wanted to move forward from the law of Talion to the law of love, reflecting how God the Father loves us.

If there’s anything that Christianity would be known for is the radical idea of loving one’s enemies. It is so radical that two thousand years after Jesus had preached this it still remains an ideal that we are not even close to accomplishing. However, we should strive our best to come close to it and make an effort in doing it.

At first, it seems very difficult to accomplish it. It is almost unthinkable for one to give the other cheek if somebody strikes you on the left. Our instinct would tell us to strike back. Or would we give up our cloak if our tunic is asked? Most probably we would fight for it because it is essential for our existence and it is natural instinct not to be shamed.

But if we understand what Jesus means by the word “love” then his commandment makes some sense. For many of us, whenever we hear the word “love”, the first thing that comes to mind is that love is a feeling or an emotion. That love is based on something that we do because of our feelings for one another. So if we don’t feel love for another person, it means that love can’t be present then. However, for Jesus “love” is not a feeling, “love” is an action. Love is all about being kind, generous and forgiving. So when Jesus says that we should love our enemies then we should be kind, generous and forgiving even if we don’t feel like doing so.

And this is also very beneficial to one’s health. Studies have shown that people who don’t have enemies feel less stress, have a lower blood pressure and have overall good health. For the need for revenge would is only like rust that slowly but surely eats us away.

One of the exponents of this “non-violence” movement was Mahatma Gandhi. When he was campaigning for independence for India by using civil disobedience non-violently he showed that by not fighting back, the vicious cycle of violence could end.

Another exponent of non-violence was Nelson Mandela, being released from prison after more than 28 years, he never endorsed revenge and when he was eventually elected as South Africa’s first black president he fostered racial reconciliation instead of revenge.

Jesus has placed a very high standard on how to truly live as a Christian. That is why he has commanded us to be perfect just as his heavenly Father is perfect, and being perfect is almost impossible and yet he is constantly encouraging us to work for perfection. So for us, how far are we from perfection? I hope that we don’t give up because the more we strive, the more we will come closer to the kingdom of heaven.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

We acknowledge their skin-groups, story-lines, traditions, religiosity and living cultures.

We pay respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Thailand, and Myanmar.

We are committed to building with them, a brighter future together.