Hit List or Prayer List ? – 7th Sunday in ordinary time – Matthew 5: 38-48

 Jesus, in Matthew Chapter 5, after having given his disciples identity and taught them a radical way of living, as seen in the beatitudes, now teaches his disciples to be faithful to the commandments and not to the traditional interpretations as taught by the Scribes and Pharisees. What makes these six teaching so radical is that Jesus teaches his disciples to go beyond the text of the law to the spirit from which it evolved. The disciple had to live like a citizen of heaven among citizens on earth; marked with the behaviour of being salt and light to ‘the world’.

Today’s gospel deals with the last two teachings in Matthew 5; teachings that are set apart by the words of Jesus when he says, ‘you have heard it said’. At the heart of these teaching is love, but a love that could be lost in hatred and un-forgiveness.

Studying the first of these teachings, (38- 44) one realizes that these words of the OT have often been misunderstood as a vengeful command. Gandhiji misunderstood ‘an eye for and eye’ when he added the words ‘will make the whole world blind’. At the heart of this commandment was not a ‘MEASURE OF REVENGE’ but a measure to PREVENT DISPROPORTIONATE REVENGE. The ancient Israelite set limits to justice. If I knocked one tooth out, you could not knock ten in return. Having said this, the law never DEMANDED proportionate revenge; you were most free to forgive. It was simply a law to set limits. So the ‘lex talionis’ regulated revenge and retaliation for damages. Its original intention was humanitarian. However the Rabbis felt that this was too harsh and began commuting the penalty to fines.

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