SEVENTH SUNDAY IN THE ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A.
19th February 2017.
Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48.
The counter force that withstands the mechanism that governs the world is the emphasis of Jesus Christ in the gospel. Jesus Christ proposes going the extra mile in order to be a step ahead of the evil mechanism that holds sway of humanity. This extra mile will not only put human beings ahead, it will also bring out the divine human aspect that is suppressed by the mechanism. As long as we look at the aggressor from his own point of view, we will fall into the danger of revenge. But when our focus is on the imago Dei, i.e. the essence of our being, we will understand why we should jettison revenge and embrace love.
Today’s gospel begins with a human natural justice of an eye for eye, tooth for tooth. This natural justice implies that what you give is what you receive. But experience has shown that oftentimes it entangles us into conflict than peace. The aftermath is always a motivation towards revenge. Rather than settle the dispute, it motivates further into conflict. The Shakespearean Merchant of Venice is an indicator of the error of this natural justice. It is not possible to have your pound of flesh without spilling blood. The ruler of this world, depends on this illusion of eye for eye, tooth for tooth, to feed the mechanism that operates in the world. He preys on our human nature, by attacking our humanness which naturally incline to this natural justice. The evil mechanism is such that the unjust aggressor attacks us in a manner that appears to diminish our humanness. When the attack is perceived as insult, disgrace, humiliation etc., we react with the natural impulse that is inclined to revenge in order to recover our humanness. The mechanism while holding sway of the human nature, gives no room for the second thought that will reveal the illusion at work.
St. Paul reminds us of the divine nature we inherited at baptism as God’s living temple. He warns against the wisdom of this world which does not edify the Temple of God that resides in our souls. The wisdom of this world, he claims, is foolishness to God. We should not base our arguments according to wisdom of this world. The ruler of this world has fashioned a mechanism based on the wisdom of this world in order to prevent any argument from revealing the illusion at work. So we are left with the advice of St. Paul which is to always focus on that divine wisdom of the cross which is the motivation of his apostolic ministry.
Jesus Christ encourages us to go the extra mile that will keep us far ahead of the mechanism that govern the world. He tell us not to revenge, not because we are not hurt by the aggressor, but because the aim of the aggressor is to hurt us in order to destroy us. We are destroyed when we are caught in the web of revenge. The hurt we feel is an illusion because it only appears to be, the aim is to provoke that anger that recourses to retaliation. It appears to be because we look at it not from the point of view of the aggressor, but from the image of God that we are made of, the temple of God living inside of us. When we react in anger, we lose sight of the correct point of view, and thus we revenge. But a constant reflection of who we are, images of God, Temples of God, will always put us ahead of this evil mechanism.
Going the extra mile means to recollect our image of God in order to understand that the hurt is merely a bait and not the aim of the attack. To be perfect means to live above the influence of the human mechanism that pulls us down. Then we shall by His grace love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Anthony Ekpunobi, C.M.