7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A
To listen, please click:
To listen, please click:
We always listen to our teachers because we know they have the wisdom that we need. The people of Athens flocked to hear the wisdom of Plato and Socrates; we are delighted to hear the wisdom of Solomon; the Jews would always go to the Rabbi who have wise answers to every question. What is the difference of Jesus to the wisest teachers who roamed this planet? Jesus was not just wise, he was Wisdom personified!
For the past three Sundays, we have been listening to the Sermon on the Mount by this greatest teacher. But every time we listen to him, there is always a sense of novelty; he always brings his hearers to a higher level of understanding. In fact human history has never heard such teachings. No one has ever upset the norms of reciprocity and the standard of the world. Whenever we listen to Jesus, we listen not just to a wise teacher, we listen to Wisdom speaking to us. Take it or leave it.
Because of our sense of justice, we always demand retribution and compensation. This is what law is all about: to bring that justice for all. Have you ever heard of lex talionis? It is the Latin for the law of retributive justice wherein we exact equitable retribution to an offended party or punishment identical to the offence. We call it in simple terms as “eye for an eye” or “tooth for a tooth”. Gandhi who was a champion of non-violence said “eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind”. Or maybe we could say “tooth for a tooth will make Colgate bankrupt.” What the devil teaches us is not to get angry, but to get even. Sometimes we appear all right at the outside but deep inside us is a longing to get revenge.
Jesus’ teachings in our gospel today really upsets our human sense of retributive justice: offer no resistance to the wicked; offer the other cheek when somebody hits us; if someone asks for our shirt, give him our pants as well; give to anyone who asks or borrows; go an extra kilometer. If a teacher or a friend advises us to do those things, we might say “Are you crazy?” Are we condoning injustice or exploitation? When we are unjustly wronged, do we not want justice served to us?
This is where Jesus makes a difference from the teachings of the world: to go beyond the self who is capable of transcending the worldly standards of justice. As the Father loves his children who are either good or bad, it may be very difficult for us but we are asked to do the same. Isn’t it so very easy to love those who love us? To do good to others who have done good to us? But that does not make us exceptional, isn’t it? We are capable of doing what the ordinary demands. In fact the unsung or unseen heroes among us are those who are able to give themselves to the world who was cruel to them.
There is an unfathomable mystery when Jesus was unjustly condemned and unjustly killed. No amount of human wisdom could ever explain the foolishness of Jesus; no amount of human retribution could ever compensate for his suffering and pain.
When Jesus asked his disciples to be perfect, he gave us the Father as the standard of perfection. We are all in the process of becoming. Each time we transcend ourselves to be better persons in the midst of all our imperfections, vulnerability and sinfulness, we are on our way towards perfection. Every time we go beyond what our ego demands, we get closer to heaven. Every time we do this our Father smiles on us.