Chinese Mass：Every Sunday 2:15 p.m.
Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)
After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering
Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)
Talk and discussion meeting First Monday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church
[Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away. ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.]
This week’s reflection continues with the thread that we heard last week and therefore a continuation of last week’s gospel. The context of Jesus’ teaching is still on the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. However, Jesus is not speaking about the commandments now and instead He touches on two other themes. Jesus continues to contrast between what is written and what he says: the Law of Moses and Jesus’ understanding of what is written between the lines and why these laws were written in the first place. Through the contrasting, Jesus is showing his disciples how his presence amongst them is bringing to fulfilment what is already written about him.
Jesus firstly speaks about an “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth”. This law in itself was already a great achievement at the time. Before this particular law was given, the people of Israel were lawless. They had no law and therefore anyone could do anything to anyone as they wished. They were anarchic, turbulent and violent towards each other. This meant that anyone could have his own revenge in whatever way they wanted …even if he simply felt “offended” by someone else’s action. This particular law (“Eye for eye and tooth for tooth”) was the start and gave some regulations of how to live in a harmonious way in a “civilised” society. If one understands why this “law” was given, then one can also understand why Jesus speaks in this way about offering the wicked man no resistance. Jesus is asking his disciples to try and understand why one is “wicked” or act in a “wicked way”. Furthermore, through what Jesus says, he is offering the ‘wicked man’ the opportunity to turn back from his wicked ways. This seems to be for the disadvantage of the person who is asked ‘not to turn away’ when the wicked man asks for something from the person who finds himself in the wicked man’s hands. Yet this action should lead to the wicked man’s ‘turning away’ from his wicked ways and rediscover the true way which leads to the presence of God in his life.
This links in with the second theme of Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel. Jesus starts by reminding his disciples of what is written in the Law and the Prophets “You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy”. Again this law was written as a law to promote harmonious living in society and at the same time it also gave meaning to the battles and wars that the people of God found themselves in. Their way of thinking was that they (i.e. the people of Israel) were fighting against an enemy … and therefore to win against them they had to hate them! This way of thinking may be translated in modern terms as the adrenaline that gives the body more motivation and energy to fight more heroically in battle. However, Jesus tells his disciples: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. Jesus does not mention anything about ‘hate’… On the contrary he asks his disciples to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them. As the other first theme mentioned above, Jesus is still giving a chance to the enemy to change and become a neighbour. The fact that someone else is somehow ‘different’, does not automatically make them enemies … It only makes them different. For Jesus, one has to go beyond what the tax collectors and the pagans do. Jesus goes further to what is written in the Law and the Prophets. Jesus’ command to his disciples to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them, to go beyond what is written, may also lead ‘the enemy’ to return back from one’s own ways and become ‘a neighbour’. Jesus knows that the enemy cannot be changed by any action of his own enemy. It is only by Prayer (for the enemy) that ‘the enemy’ can change and realise the same things as the disciple himself! Jesus is aware that this is not easy and perhaps impossible without the help of God. He also knows that through “love and prayer”, one can become “perfect just as the heavenly Father is perfect”.
We, as Disciples of Christ, are asked to love and pray as Jesus demands in his teaching in today’s gospel. Are we ready to let Love and Prayer motivate our actions in our daily life?
“Lord, your own life was a continuous life of “Love and Prayer” to God the Father and to the others. Help us to understand that our own life should be built on this model and may we continue to grow in Love and in Union to God and the others. Thank you Lord!”
Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.
(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo http://www.stpatrickwaterloo.org.uk/ )