Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 23 February 2020
AN EYE FOR AN EYE VERSUS THE LAW OF LOVE
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for life” was the practice amongst the Jews at the time of Christ and for centuries before (Ex. 21 :23-25).
The context was that of limiting personal revenge for offenses of someone else against him/her and to limit the punishment to fit the crime. One could not take two eyes in revenge for an eye or two teeth for a tooth.
So, the establishment of this law of retribution, though it seems harsh to us today, was really a means of justice. The punishment could not exceed the crime. Jesus is demonstrating here the deficiency of the Pharisees interpretation and the practice of this teaching.
Christ instead sets up the “golden rule” of fraternal charity in place of this Law of Talon. For Jesus being a true Christian means forgiving those who offend or injure us, in short, we must love everyone, whether they be friends or enemies.
C.K. Chesterton says: “We are commanded to love our neighbours and our enemies; they are generally the same people.”
It is very easy for me to look at the world and say that I love all people. Those with whom I have no contact and no relationship. People I will never meet in my lifetime. But it is actually my neighbour, the one whom I live and work with, who is liable to injure me and thus become my enemy.
The best place to begin this kind of charity that Christ is talking about is at home. Husbands and wives, priests and religious living together, must learn to understand and tolerate each other’s imperfections and faults.
No two persons in the world, not even identical twins, can agree on all things, so it is vain and unrealistic to expect even one’s married partner or members of my religious community to agree with me on all points. If there is peace and harmony between husband and wife, between religious living together, then those around them will learn and imitate it too. Such a home and a community will be a truly happy home even if it has little of the world’s riches. Our fraternal charity will spread from our home and our community to our neighbours and to all those around us.
In every village or town there will always be those who are difficult. There will be the dishonest, the tell- tales, the quarrelsome, the critic of everyone and everything. It is when we have dealings with such people that all our Christian charity is necessary.
Most likely we will never be able to change their ways of acting, but charity will enable us to tolerate their bad behaviour and will move us to pray for the change of heart and mind. To love our enemy as Jesus commands, we must do all in our power to rid our minds and hearts of any hatred and try to see the good in people.
May Christ who forgave his enemies to the point of dying for them, give us the grace to imitate him and thus be his true followers.
Blessings, Fr George Carlos sdb