Turning the other cheek
Sunday, February 23, 2020
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Lev 19:1–2, 17–18
Ps 103:1–2, 3–4, 8, 10, 12–13
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 3:16–23
Gospel: Mt 5:38–48Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give when asked and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said: Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust.
“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? For your part you shall be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”
(Daily Gospel in the Assimilated Life Experience)
Our clamor for justice is hardly without any hidden desire to savor sweet revenge. To calibrate this otherwise bottomless desire, ancient civilization already came up with a law called “Lex Talionis” (law of retribution). This is represented by the famous phrase “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Its purpose was to confine one’s quest for revenge to the realm of justice. Lex Talionis saw to it that an offender suffered no more than what he deserved for the offence he had committed.
This was the prevailing law of society when Jesus was born. Thus Leviticus 24:19-21 required that the same injury done to a neighbor must be inflicted to the person committing the injury. “As the injury inflicted, so must be the injury suffered” (Lev. 24:20). “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deut. 19:21). To the surprise of the Jews Jesus set aside this equitable scheme and introduced his law of love. Imagine the reaction of people when Jesus said, “…if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other” (verse 39).
To justify this new commandment, argued: “And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much?” The bottom line is perfection. This was what he wanted his followers to aim for. And the benchmark was the perfection of his heavenly Father. –(Atty.) Rev. Fr. Dan Domingo P. delos Angeles, Jr., JD, DM, MAPM.
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