• Sunday 7 A

    Posted on February 10, 2017 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    Introduction: Last Sunday we heard Jesus say to us: “…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God.”


        Today God says to us in the 1st reading from the Book of Leviticus: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, you God am holy.”  In the Gospel Jesus says to us: “…you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Those are ways of stating the theory.  But then the first reading gets down to particulars. “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.

    Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,

    do not incur sin because of him.

    Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.

    You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

    I am the LORD.”

         There are three DON’TS 1) Don’t bear hatred in your heart for your brother, 2) take no revenge, 3) do not cherish a grudge for your countryman.  These “don’ts” are followed by one “Do”.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself..


        In the second reading Paul speaks to the Corinthians and us about our dignity as temples of God.  He also calls us to be wise in the ways of God.


        The Gospel of this Sunday is the real killer.  Jesus tells us that aggression is not to be returned and that we are to love not just our neighbor but even our ENEMY AND PRAY FOR OUR PERSECUTORS.


        It is important to understand verse 39a.  Our translation reads: “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”  Barbara Reid in her commentary informs us: “Verse 39a is best translated “do not retaliate against the evildoer.”  The verb in Greek most often carries the connotation “resist violently” or “armed resistance in military encounters” (e.g.Eph 6:13) 

                                                       Warren Carter translates this sentence: “Do not violently resist an evildoer.”  The strange NRSV translation Do not resist an evildoer (or evil) forbids self protection…” and invites a submissive approach to tyrants.  Prior to this four scenes have exhorted the audience to resist doing evil!  Following this  Verses 39?42 offer scenes of resisting oppressive power.  Armed revolt or submission are not the only alternatives.  Jesus’ third way is active nonviolent resistance.  “Four somewhat witty yet serious examples of this active nonviolent resistance follow.”

        1) “turn the other cheek” Warren writes: “Rather than be subdued into non responsiveness, and rather than lashing out in violence and continuing the cycle, Jesus teaches a third response: turn the other also.  This action shows that one has not been intimidated or provoked into uncontrolled actions.  It is a chosen, active, nonviolent response to a system designed to humiliate.  The chosen action refuses submission, asserts dignity and humanness and challenges what is supposed to demean.  It refuses the superior the power to humiliate.”

        2) “give your cloak as well” This means to strip oneself naked in court.  By standing naked before one’s creditor who has both garments in his hand, one shames and dishonors the creditor.

        3) “go also the second mile” It is a strategy for responding to what is intended to humiliate by refusing to be humiliated.  It would also threaten the Soldier that he might be brought to task for what happened.

        4) “give to him who begs” It counters a cultural understanding of giving as benefiting the giver or benefactor’s reputation and social position, and obligating the recipient to reciprocate by enhancing the patron’s status. 

                    “Do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” This means setting aside reciprocity and benefits from repayment, high interest rates, or default.


        Jesus offers four examples of nonviolent resistance to oppressive power. They are examples of creative, imaginative strategies which break the circle of violence.  The servile refuse to be humiliated; the subjugated take initiative by acting with dignity and humanity in the midst of and against injustice and oppression which seem permanent.

        W.Wink describes Jesus’ third way (active non violent resistance)  in phrases such as: Seize the moral initiative, find a creative alternative to violence, assert your own humanity and dignity as a person, meet force with ridicule or humor, break the cycle of humiliation, refuse the inferior position, shame the oppressor, be willing to suffer.  Such actions exhibit different relationships and manifest the destabilizing, transforming reign of God..


        Barbara Reid sums up the command to love our enemies and pray for them in these words: “Giving loving treatment only to one’s own people does not adequately fulfill the Law.  Verse 48 sums up: “There must be no limits to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds” The New American Bible reads: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect”).” Mt. 5:48   Marcus Borg in his book  Meeting Jesus again for the first time (footnote 1, p. 62)  prefers the Lukan wording: Luke 6:36 “Be compassionate as God is compassionate.”  Compassionate” is to be preferred to Matthew’s “perfect”.  He points out that this is the translation in the New English Bible, the Jerusalem Bible and the Scholars Version.  He goes on to point out that several translations ( King James, RSV, and NRSV) have  “merciful”.

Comments are closed.