Gospel Reflections (Matthew 5:38-48)

Following on from the four adjustments of the Law in last Sunday’s gospel come two more, perhaps the most demanding. The Law of Moses had limited revenge: only a tooth might be taken for a tooth, only an eye for an eye, not life itself. Jesus, however, will not tolerate even this limited vengeance; he allows no revenge at all. Again and again in the course of the gospel Jesus returns to this need for unconditional forgiveness. We daringly engage ourselves with this teaching whenever we say the Lord’s Prayer, ‘forgive us just as we forgive…’. The final demand, however, is the most challenging of all. There is in fact no passage of the canonical scripture which encourages ‘hate your enemy’. In any case, just as God lavishes his benefits of life, sun and rain on good and evil alike, so we must put no limits to our love. Only in this way – think of the first reading! – can we attempt to honour and imitate the holiness of God. This is what it means to be a son of God, ‘sons of your Father in heaven’: only by following in his way and by fulfilling his designs can we be integrated into his family. There can be no enmity in Christianity. Can I really forgive with no trace of animosity?

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