Monday - Ordinary Time
1) Opening prayer
our hope and our strength,
without you we falter.
Help us to follow Christ
and to live according to your will.
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 5,38-42
Jesus said to
his disciples: 'You have heard how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for
tooth. But I say this to you: offer no resistance to the wicked. On the
contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well;
if someone wishes to go to law with you to get your tunic, let him have your
cloak as well. And if anyone requires you to go one mile, go two miles with
him. Give to anyone who asks you, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn
• Today’s Gospel forms part of a small
literary unit which goes from Mt 5, 17 to Mt 5, 48, in which is described how
to pass from the ancient justice of the Pharisees (Mt 5, 20) to the new justice
of the Kingdom of God (Mt 5, 48). It describes how to go up to the Mountain of
the Beatitudes, from where Jesus announces the new Law of Love. The great
desire of the Pharisees was to live in justice, to be just before God. And this
is the desire of all of us. Just is the one who succeeds to live where God
wants him/her to live. The Pharisees tried to attain justice through the strict
observance of the Law. They thought that with their own effort they could
succeed in being where God wanted them to be. Jesus takes a stand concerning
this practice and announces the new justice which should exceed, surpass the
justice of the Pharisees (Mt 5, 20). In today’s Gospel we are reaching almost
the summit of the mountain. Only a little is lacking. The summit is described
in one phrase: “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5, 48), on
which we will meditate in tomorrow’s Gospel. Let us look closely at this last
degree which is still lacking to reach the summit of the Mountain, of which
Saint John of the Cross says: “Here reign silence and love”.
• Matthew 5, 38: Eye for eye and tooth
for tooth. Jesus quotes a text of the Ancient Law saying: “You have
heard how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth!” He shortened the
text, because the complete text said: “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for
tooth, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, blow for blow” (Ex
21, 23-25). Like in the previous cases, here also Jesus makes a completely new
rereading. The principle “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” was already found in
the origin of the interpretation which the Scribes made of the law. This
principle should be overthrown, because it perverts and destroys the
relationship between persons and with God.
• Matthew 5, 39ª: Do not give back evil
for evil received. Jesus affirms exactly the contrary: “But I say to you
do not offer resistance to the wicked”. Before some violence received, our
natural reaction is to pay the other one with the same coin. Vengeance asks for
“eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. Jesus asks to pay back the evil not with evil,
but with good. Because if we do not know how to overcome the violence received,
the spiral of violence will take up everything and we will not know what to do.
Lamec said: For a wound received I will kill a man, and for a scar I would
kill a young person. If the vengeance of Cain was worth seven that of Lamec
will count for seventy-seven” (Gen 4, 24). And it was precisely because of
this terrible act of vengeance that everything ended in the confusion of the
Tower of Babel. (Gen 11,1-9). Faithful to the teaching of Jesus, Paul writes in
the Letter to the Romans: “Never pay back evil with evil; let your concern
be to do good to all men. Do not allow yourselves to be overcome by evil but
overcome evil with good” (Rm 12, 17.21). To be able to have this attitude
is necessary to have much faith in the possibility to recover that the human
being has. How can we do this in practice? Jesus offers four concrete examples.
• Matthew 5, 39b-42: the four examples
to overcome the spiral of violence. Jesus says: “rather (a) if anyone hits you
on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; (b) if anyone wishes to go to
Law with you to get your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (d) And if
anyone requires you to go one mile, go two miles with him. (e) Give to anyone
who asks you, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away” (Mt 5,
40-42). How are these four affirmations to be understood? Jesus himself helps
us to understand. When the soldier hit him on the cheek, he did not offer the
other cheek. Rather, he reacted with energy: “If there is some offence in
what I said, point it out, but if not, why do you strike me?” (Jn 18, 23) Jesus
does not teach us to be passive. Saint Paul thinks that paying evil with good
“you will make others be ashamed” (Rm 12, 20). This faith in the possibility to
recover the human being is possible only beginning from the root which comes
from the total gratuity of the creative love which God shows us in the life and
the attitudes of Jesus.
4) Personal questions
• Have you some time felt within you such a
great anger as to want to apply the vengeance “eye for eye, tooth for tooth”?
What did you do to overcome this?
• Does life in community, living together,
favour today in the Church and in us the creative love which Jesus proposes in
5) Concluding Prayer
Give ear to my
spare a thought
for my sighing.
Listen to my cry for help,
my King and my God! To you I pray. (Ps 5,1-2)