Hell is not my neighbour- 1st Week of Lent- Saturday-Matthew 5: 43-48

Hell is not my neighbour- 1st Week of Lent- Saturday-Matthew 5: 43-48

So Jesus’ run in with the Pharisees continues.  It was the Pharisees who interpreted the Torah for four hundred years, in the absence of the prophets, unto the time of Jesus.  In their zeal to be mediators between God and man, they got the law wrong and the spirit completely wrong.  For Jesus the law was the lowest common denominator. His expectation from a Christian was always, more! And so Matthew chapter 5 plays out these six hyper theses, the call for more! Today’s Gospel plays out the last of the six hyper theses.

 The Pharisees had interpreted the law concerning ones relationship with regard to neighbours and enemies in the most conveniently contrived way. They mandated that one was to love ones neighbour and hate ones enemy. Interestingly, the ‘popular quote’ interpreted by the Pharisees and lived by the Jews, was itself, an incomplete presentation of what the law really said.

Leviticus 19:18, the source of this ‘popular saying’ on neighbours and enemies  actually called for the love of neighbour to be in the same measure as one loved oneself, a section conveniently omitted by the Pharisees.  Further, there was no reference, anywhere in the law, about hating ones enemy; again an addition brought in by the Pharisees. So the Pharisees had done a very convenient cut and paste job.

So what was the agenda of the Pharisees? Why mislead the people with half-truths? In limiting love to one’s neighbour, the Pharisees effectively limited the understanding of ones neighbour only to a fellow Jew and by doing that they officially signalled that all non-Jews were the enemy, who could be hated.  This was nothing but state sponsored hate.

This narrow ethnocentric frame work exists even today. Sadly, we see it lived out in distinctions made on the basis of race, colour, nationality and religion. The shrill voices of world leaders ‘TRUMpeting’ such philosophies, grows globally, and all in the name of nationalism. Make no mistake; the bigots exist on the other side too and often take the form of terror in the name of God; whatever ‘God’ they have cultivated in their head.  Such a mandate to hate our neighbour, leads to a bigoted human existence and our world is too fragile for bigots. The Pharisees come alive, all over again.

The call of Jesus to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us is not some ‘hopeless idealism but a wise strategy for overcoming the persecutor.’ The heroic stance of the martyr gives the persecutor a ‘bad image’ and is hard for governments to control.  ‘Shaming with love’, that was Jesus strategy and that is seen in the early Christian martyrs who gave late antiquity a bad conscience.

Our ‘reward’ if any, must be in the belief that in the eyes of God, we are called to be perfect. This perfection is not to be misunderstood as not having any fault but rather a Christian calling to be blameless or holy before the Lord, in our dealings with our neighbour.  If our love is limited to those of our own race, mind-set or faith, then we have already received an ‘earthly reward’. We receive only the love of the person who is of the same mind as we are. But if we love those who hate us, our reward is an increase in God’s love.

Fr Warner D’souza

With much inspiration from and acknowledgment to the author of the JBC

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6 thoughts on “Hell is not my neighbour- 1st Week of Lent- Saturday-Matthew 5: 43-48”

  • 60 Thorndale Crescent

  • Trump has delivered on many of his promises. He has been pro life. He is trying to undo all the political correct BS of the liberals. The moral depravity in the country had reached new heights. Nun’s and religious reqd to pay for contraception and abortion. Please pray for Trump to bring common sense back now that transgender transgender s are pushing their agenda.

  • We stay in a small cottage…no neighbours yet…but soon will be moving to a building society wherein we have some friends as neighbours….so technically that would be easy…
    In cases of a working person which is the norm for most….who is our neighbor?

  • Rather than term it “Shaming with Love” I think what our Lord really meant was “Winning over with Love”. Be that as it may it’s a tough call to Perfectionism … one that cannot be achieved without prayer and much sacrifice and an enormous amount of encouragement and help from our Saviour. Love your Enemies do good to those who hate you! A Herculean task indeed but not insurmountable with our Lords help and our efforts.

  • The last two lines are simply beyond amazing. Thank you Fr

  • Today’s reading reminded me of the hymn which I truly ❤️ ….: Love it was that saved us and it was love that made us love was gods plan when he made man gods divine nature is LOVe. So why is it so difficult to love when it was his Love that for us that he was crucified.


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