By His Excellency, Bishop Gregory J. Mansour, Eparchy of St. Maron, Brooklyn
It is called the “Teaching” Gospel because Matthew arranged the words of Jesus in an orderly manner. For all who love the Word of God, this Gospel is for you! But beware, it also has some very difficult advice on ISIS.
|Our brothers and sisters, Syrian refugees.|
In chapters 5 through 7 the most challenging of our Lord’s teaching shines through: the Beatitudes; the teaching on marriage; and the teaching against revenge. It is here that we are close to the very words of Jesus himself, unfiltered and powerful. Saving his other teachings on the sanctity of marriage, and the imperative of the Beatitudes to go beyond the letter of the law, let us take up our Lord’s teaching on retaliation, which is a clear window into his very personal response to the hatred and evil of his day, which he himself endured. This teaching against retaliation is sincere, because he lived it himself, and he asked all who desire to follow him, to live it as well.
The words and stories that Jesus uses to describe his teaching are very much his own. “You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but what I say is offer no resistance.” He did not mean to be passive in front of evil; in fact, he himself was not passive. Instead he meant very clearly that we not fight evil with evil. Jesus asks us to follow him, to be like him, to love like him, even our enemies, and to do well even to those who do evil. He invites us to resist like he did; not in the usual way, but rather in a creative way; and for this he gave us three very unique examples.
We know his examples as: “turn the other check,” “go the extra mile,” and “give the shirt on your back.” These expressions are based on popular parlance, because this is how we have watered down his teaching. But what Jesus actually said is very different!
He did not say “turn the other cheek;” he said, “if someone strikes you on the right cheek offer him the left.” A strike on the right cheek could only be done as a back-handed slap, sending a clear signal that the one slapping is superior, and the one receiving the slap is inferior. For Jesus this was not acceptable, he asked us to be defiant in the face of such cruelty, and not accept an inferior status, but rather demand that the oppressor strike us again, but this time as an equal! Let us not forget how Jesus stood before Pontius Pilot, as an equal, even though the Roman leader claimed to have “power” over him.
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