“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
“You have heard that it was said,
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mtt. 5:38-48 - 7th Sunday of the Year
Some Points for Reflection and Prayer
We might find it a bit confusing when we put together this text with other references that seem to differ.
Jesus rebuking the Pharisees and teachers of the Law for their strict teaching and burdensome demands; Jesus said, “How terrible it will be for you experts in the Law, (and Pharisees) too! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, yet you don’t even lift a finger to ease those burdens.
How terrible it will be for you experts in the Law! You have taken away the key to knowledge. You didn’t go in yourselves, and you kept out those who were trying to go in.” Lk. 11:46
And we read these words by Pope Francis in his document, the Joy of the Gospel; 43 In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives. Saint Thomas Aquinas pointed out that the precepts which Christ and the apostles gave to the people of God “are very few”. Citing Saint Augustine, he noted that the precepts subsequently enjoined by the Church should be insisted upon with moderation “so as not to burden the lives of the faithful” and make our religion a form of servitude, whereas “God’s mercy has willed that we should be free”.
Does this mean we are to be perfect but not too perfect?
God's plan is for us is that we be perfected into the "... children of your heavenly Father, ..." But we cannot make ourselves perfect by our efforts alone - by making rules and keeping them. Rather, we submit ourselves to be formed, by the hands of the Spirit into the likeness of our Heavenly Father. We might put it in this simple way; the gospel teaches ...
I have Good News, God wants you to be his sons and daughters. You are to become perfect, as He is perfect. He will take you, just as you are now, and do this if you are willing to accept it. Learn to know his Son, Jesus and follow him faithfully. He will lead you and instruct you, and give you the Spirit to be with you always, to mold and shape you into a true child of God.On our part it is ours to:
- Submit our minds and hearts to Jesus in a truly personal relationship.
- Speak to Jesus, not just about Jesus.
- Prayer is as essential to evangelizing as food is to life.
- Begin each day with, "Here I am Lord, ready to do your will."