Lev 19:1-2,17-18; 1Cor 3:16-23; Matt 5:38-48
The Code of Hammurabi (1793-1750 B.C.), a precept to the law of retaliation which we heard awhile ago: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Matt 5:38, Ex 21:24, Lev 24:19ff) which was intended not to command to do violence but to set limits on giving vengeance for an offense. The debtee must pay his debts but the debtor must never ask for more than the amount involved. Payment for one’s misdeeds must be in the same measure – no more, no less. In other words, before Jesus Christ, this precept is a law of mercy. For example if one of your friends knocked out one of your teeth, you could revenge knocking out one of his. If someone struck you in the eye, you could return but no more…
But Jesus does not like this old law, He presents a real challenge: “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” Why? It is because Christians are expected to do more. As Bishop Manguiran, the good bishop of the Diocese of Dipolog, said: “To love as Jesus does is to do extra; to go beyond our human transactions.” He continued to say:
“To love those whom you know as friends is not ‘extra,’
To give to those who have given you in return is not ‘more’
To work because you are paid a salary is not ‘beyond’
To give in order to be given in return in the form of honor,
praise, promotion is not ‘extra’
All these – friendship, salary, honor, praise, promotion are
ordinary human ground of transaction, everybody even pagans
and bad people do these.”
Whether we like it or not, as per experience, we like to return evil for evil. We like a rubber bond: stretch it hard and once it snaps, it stings. Was it Gandhi who said that if we take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, then, the world would be filled with blind and toothless people? In Shakespeare’ Merchant of Venice that if the moneylender shylock were to be allowed to cut a pound of flesh from the body of Antonio who failed to repay him, what become of us but a walking bone? The divine counsel, however, tells us to return good for evil.
Just like what a mother had said to a priest after celebrating the first Mass: “Father, we were late for the Mass because on our way to church we were held up in a passenger jeepney. There were six of us and the four young robbers poked their knives on our knees.” Expressing concerns, the priest asked: “ Are you alright? What can I do to be of help to you? Do still have money for your fare back to your home? She replied: “We are a bit shaken but we are okay, Father. I was able to hide some money enough for our fare. But I want to make a request. You see, I was touched by your gospel reflections about a man who was robbed and a Good Samaritan came to help; if you really want to be of help, please pray for the young man who held us up in your next Mass.”
The priest was shocked because he was praying for kind and loving people most of the time, for wick persons, etc. but never in his life as a priest praying for robbers, because he was once a victim. If he did not pray, who will pray for them?
This is the reality of human behavior. As what I have said that we like to return evil for evil but the divine counsel advises us to return good for evil.
All what Jesus had said is a challenge to all of us. But why we have to love even our enemies and not hate them instead? It is because first and foremost, as what Bishop Manguiran had said that it is ‘extra’ and ‘more’ to love those who are not lovable, to give those who cannot give in return, to serve those who cannot serve in return and to forgive even our enemies.
The other one is because we are created in the image and likeness of God either each one of us is bad or good and our vocation as humans is to resemble our father in Heaven. We love the man not only because we have the same nature or the same skeletal structure and bodily form but because all men and women without exemption were redeemed by the blood of Christ on the cross.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A