Lectio Divina: Matthew 5:43-48
Season of Lent
1) OPENING PRAYER
Lord God, from You comes the initiative of love.
You seek us out and You tell us:
I am your God; you are my people.
You love us in Jesus Christ, Your Son.
God, may our response of love
go far beyond the demands of any law.
May we seek You and commune with You
in the deepest of our being
and may we express our gratitude to You
by going to our neighbor
with a love that is spontaneous like Yours.
We ask You this through Christ our Lord.
2) GOSPEL READING - MATTHEW 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
In today’s Gospel we see how Jesus has interpreted the commandment “You shall not kill” in such a way that its observance leads to the practice of love. Besides saying “You shall not kill” (Mt 5:21), Jesus quoted four other commandments of the ancient law: you shall not commit adultery (Mt 5:27), you shall not bear false witness (Mt 5:33), eye for eye, and tooth for tooth (Mt 5:38) and, in today s Gospel, you shall love your neighbor and will hate your enemy (Mt 5:43), five times, Jesus criticizes and completes the ancient way of observing these commandments and indicates the new way to attain the objective of the law, which is the practice of love (Mt 5:22-26; 5:28-32; 5:34-37; 5:39-42; 5:44-48).
Love your enemies. In today's Gospel Jesus quotes the ancient law which says: You will love your neighbor and hate your enemy . This text is not found like this in the Old Testament. It is more a question of the mentality of the time, according to which there was no problem if a person hated his enemy. Jesus was not in agreement and says: But I tell you: if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even the tax collectors do as much? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Do not even the gentiles do as much? You must, therefore, set no bounds to your love, just as your heavenly Father sets none to His . And Jesus gives us the proof. At the hour of His death He observed that which He preached.
Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing. A soldier takes the wrist of Jesus and places it on the arm of the cross, places a nail and begins to hammer it in. Several times. The blood was flowing down. The body of Jesus contorted with pain. The soldier, a mercenary, ignorant, far from knowing what he was doing, and of what was happening around him, continued to hammer as if it were a piece of the wall of his house and he had to put up a picture. At that moment Jesus prays for the soldier who tortures Him and addresses His prayer to the Father: Father, forgive them! They know not what they are doing! He loved the soldier who killed Him. Even wanting it with all their strength, the lack of humanity did not succeed to kill in Jesus His humanity and love! He will be imprisoned, they will spit on Him, will laugh and make fun of Him, they will make of Him a false king crowning Him with a crown of thorns, they will torture Him, will oblige Him to go through the streets like a criminal hearing the insults of the religious authority. On Calvary they will leave Him completely naked in the sight of all. But the poison of this lack of humanity did not succeed in suppressing the source of love and humanity which sprang from within Jesus. The water of the love which sprang from within was stronger than the poison of hatred which was coming from without. Looking at that soldier, Jesus felt sorrow and prayed for him and for all: Father, forgive them! They know not what they are doing! Jesus, in solidarity, almost excuses those who were ill treating and torturing Him. He was like a brother who goes with his murderous brothers before the judge and he, the victim of his own brothers, says to the judge: They are my brothers, you know they are ignorant. Forgive them! They will become better! He loved the enemy!
Be perfect as is your Father who is in Heaven. Jesus does not want to frighten, because this would be useless. He wants to change the system of human living altogether. The notion which He constructs comes from the new experience He has from God the Father, full of tenderness and who accepts all! The words of threat against the rich cannot be an occasion of revenge on the part of the poor. Jesus orders that we have a contrary attitude: Love your enemies! True love cannot depend on what one receives from others. Love should want the good of others independently of what they do for me. This is the way God s love is for us.
4) PERSONAL QUESTIONS
Am I capable to love my enemies?
Contemplate Jesus, in silence, who at the hour of His death, loved the enemy who killed Him.
5) CONCLUDING PRAYER
How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the Law of Yahweh!
Blessed are those who observe His instructions,
who seek Him with all their hearts (Ps 119,1-2)