“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.“
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Take more from the many who have little.
It is not enough to mock the estranged, but tear down your closest friends as well.
Seek community in being alone…with your smartphone.
We read these farcical statements and reject them as obviously inhuman, as we should. Still, when we engage their absurdity, we can sense a kind of perverse logic that may actually ring true with our experience and observations. Hard to see? Take a moment to recognize that each paradox above is actually lived out in our world in some way in how we spend our free time, the way we form public policy, or the paths where we seek wholeness. Modern life is full of paradoxical values and advice, and we often have no hesitation embracing their strange logic.
And so, Jesus offers us a list of paradoxical statements in today’s Gospel. We know some by heart: love enemies, give your coat and your shirt as well, lend money and expect nothing in return, the Golden Rule. It is far too easy to dismiss these statements as hyperbole; “Jesus didn’t literally mean to turn the other cheek!” What if he did?
One cold, rainy night in Washington, D.C., last year, I encountered a woman without shelter and literally gave her the shirt off my back. I still had two other layers on. I think of that encounter often and ponder, “Jesus, maybe my other two layers weren’t really necessary for that woman, but I know I missed something else I could give her. Forgive me.”
Jesus, you challenge me. I want to follow your words, even your greatest command. But it costs a lot and it is uncomfortable. It even seems to defy what the world is telling me. Help me wear your compassion, humility, patience, hope, peace, and love not as burdens but as signs of our closeness. Teach me to shed these garments for any who need them – the poor, the afflicted, the lonely, even my enemies. I offer you my freedom, because it is my only path to true freedom. I offer you my life, because it is my only path to eternal life. May your mercy pour forth on me even more abundantly than I have offered it to others.
—Jim Broderick KingPlease share the Good Word with your friends!