Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Love of Enemies

Today's reflection is on the readings for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time and can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022314.cfm.

In our readings for today, from Leviticus and from Matthew, we are being reminded of the centrality of love in God's plans for us. As believers in the one true God and as followers of His Son, Jesus Christ, we are called to love everyone, without condition. We are to love all people as God loves them. In our first reading we hear, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18). In the gospel we hear Jesus tell his disciples (and us): "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same?" (Matthew 5:44-46).

Regarding the challenge that Jesus gives us in regards to turning the other cheek, we generally understand it to mean that the first response of Christians to violence is to be humble, meek, and mild. But lets look at the context in Jesus' time. At the time and place that Jesus lived, there was no such thing as toilet paper. Instead, everyone used their left hand for certain necessities. Not a pleasant thought, is it? Because people used their left hand for these "basics", they never, ever, touched anyone else with their left hand. When you struck someone on the cheek, you did so with your right hand, with the backhand if it was someone "inferior" to you, or with and open hand or fist for people of "equal status." If you turn your cheek after someone has backhanded you, they cannot backhand you again with their right hand. To strike again, they have to use a forward motion raising your status, or use their left hand, proving that they are uncouth. Further, turning the other cheek when you have been struck subverts the established order. It's hard not to hit back, and it takes courage to turn the other cheek, but doing so seeks to end violence by asserting the dignity of every human being.

In our call to live out our Christian vocation, we are called to stop the violence in the world by "turning the other cheek" and by loving & respecting all people, no matter how unlovable you think they are. God loves all people unconditionally. He loves those people that others want to reject. Whether gay, black, white, or Asian, God loves you totally. And God is calling us, His followers, to love all, without restriction! "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)



Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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