The first reading reminds us that we have to be holy. Holy like God is holy. This is a a big requirement. It shows that God wants us to be like Him. Not like gods like Hercules, but a reflection of Him. How do we do this? The first reading tells us. We have to avoid holding in hatred. I know we all have someone or some people we want to push down a flight of stairs, however, this is not the way to go! We must not keep hate in our hearts, even against people who hurt us.
A few days ago, Americans and others celebrated St. Valentine's day. On this day, some celebrate new love while others recall tainted love. I saw on the news a report on a new company that is profiting off of the latter. This company actually brings about revenge against former lovers. It is despicable and completely against what we are told in today's first reading. We cannot hate. Hate cannot be in a Christian's life. We can dislike people, but not hate them. Each person is different and behaves differently for a number of reasons. We may never know why a co-worker is a pain in the you know what, or why a relative is a jerk. We cannot perceive the introspection of others. In light of this, we must try to understand that each person is different and may have had bad experiences that molded him or her to be the way they are. Our job is to reflect Christ to them so that they can hopefully change that conditioning they received in life. Revenge is never the answer. We have to love each other and bear with one another (Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:13). Most human drama is just that, petty drama. There is no reason to hold hate in our hearts or grudges. Studies show that stress causes illness. It is a poison! Why hold stress, hate and grudges in our lives? We are only hurting ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
We have to be merciful and kind because God is merciful and kind to us, as we are told in the responsorial Psalm. God is always with us. We must bless His name always. He never forgets us or His promises. God is quick to forgive our sins and errors in life. All we have to do is go to confession and make a sincere resolve to change. We are God's temple, as the second reading tells us. God dwells in us. Think about this for a moment. God, the God of the universe; of all that is seen and unseen makes His home in us. If that does not speak of awesomeness, I do not know what does! We must respect our bodies and the bodies of others. Our bodies and the bodies of others belong to God.
God works in mysterious ways. His ways may confuse us at times. His foolishness is wisdom to us. I laugh when I hear professors and scientists mock God. They in their arrogance think they know more than the designer. It is silly. Yet, the more they dive into studying nature, they become dumbfounded. They think they know it all, but the a new discovery has them back at the drawing board, so to speak. We must be humble. It is in humility that we receive God's wisdom. If we think ourselves as sages, then God will sit back and not give us wisdom. Our pride will lead to our falling face-first to the pavement, metaphorically speaking (Proverbs 16:18). God owns all things. We must seek understanding only in Him.
Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that we cannot resort to revenge. He repeats the words found in Exodus 21 regarding taking a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. These were strict laws placed on primitive peoples in order to keep civilization going. In Judaism, this is the apoditic law. The idea was common in ancient Mesopotamia and can be found in Hammurabi's Law Code. The Talmud presents this verse as a form of monetary compensation and not physical retaliation as in the case of how the Sadducees interpreted it. In any event, this law is not imposed on Christians. Christ taught a new way of carrying out this law. Instead of taking an "eye for an eye," whether in a Jewish tort case or in a physical manner as in the case of the Sadducee interpretation, Christ says to turn the other cheek and give your cloak if someone sues you for your tunic. This is a radical way of interpreting the law. Christ did this so as the remind the people (including us) that we are to be holy as God is holy. We cannot get caught up in laws and regulations as if Earth is our final destination.
This is why Pope Francis speaks of not being rigid. We must work on our souls. This means bearing things for the sake of God. We must "turn the other cheek" if someone strikes us. Now, this does not mean we cannot defend ourselves. We have a right to self-preservation. In Jesus' time, the use of hands had a specific ritualistic meaning. Striking someone on the cheek was a sign of asserting dominance and authority. However, if the one being struck turned his or her cheek, this would be problematic because the left hand was used to purposes regarding unclean situations. The turning of the cheek was a sign of demanding equality. Moreover, we must love our neighbor and enemy. Many times, they can be the same! How many times has a friend betrayed us? We must pray for them and our enemies, not hate or curse them. The sun shines on all people, good and bad. God is just and treats everyone equally. Taking an eye for an eye creates two blind people. We must be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. This means to love one another and be merciful. Holding hate and grudges does no good to anyone. It will not change any situation for the better. Let us love one another as we love ourselves and try our best to be holy and perfect as God is holy and perfect. May Jesus Christ be praised!
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Here are some reflections on holy writers:
Beyond the tolerance of physical injury, the Lord wants us also to have contempt for things of this world and to be so far removed from every lawsuit or contest of judgment. If by chance a slanderer or tempter comes forward to initiate a lawsuit for the sake of testing our faith and desires to rob us of the things which are ours, the Lord orders us to offer willingly not only the things that the person goes after unjustly but even those not demanded.
— St. Chromatius
(360 - 407)
Source: “Tractate on Matthew, 25.2.1,” quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 104.
Just as Joseph lost his cloak in the hand of the prostitute and fled dressed with a better cloak, so throw your cloak into the hands of the slanderer and flee with the better covering of justice. If not, while you want to reclaim the clothes of the body, you may squander the most precious clothing of the soul. If the unbelievers see you, a Christian, repay injuries with worse injuries by worldly means and hammer earthly judgments against a lawless plunderer even to the destruction of your soul, how should they believe in reality of the hope of the heavenly kingdom that Christians preach? For they who hope for heavenly things easily spurn earthly things. Yet I doubt that those who strongly embrace worldly things believe firmly in heavenly promises.
Source: "Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 12,” quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001),
If we think that only this is all that is taught about almsgiving, then there are many poor to whom it cannot apply. And even the wealthy can give forever, if they are always giving. For the sake of goodness, therefore, this doctrine of almsgiving was given to the apostles: that they who have freely received should freely give. Money of that sort is never lacking. As much as is given, by that much it is increased, and though the fountain water drench the fields below, it never runs dry.
— St. Jerome
(347 - 420)
Source: “Commentary on Matthew, 1.5.42,” quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 119.