19 June 2017: Law of Retribution vs the Law of Life

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Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: 2 Cor. 6: 1-10; Gospel: Mt. 5: 38-42

In today’s gospel, Jesus echoes the Jewish law of retribution of tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye and transforms it to bring about a new value system. The law of retribution is not only in Judaism; it is common for many of the World religions. An example for it is the law of Karma in the Indian religions. If we do a wrong action, in this life or the other we have to pay back for it. It is not something bad; even the modern law legal procedures are based on it. When the court convicts a criminal to a death sentence for a murder then we are still within the chain of the law of retribution. But Jesus takes it over and gives a new system by saying that one has to turn the right cheek to the person who slaps on the left cheek. What does Jesus mean by this? Does Jesus mean a defenseless surrender to the one who comes to attack us? In no way! Jesus asks us to repay the evil done with non-violence and something positive. To retaliate is the normal impulse of a person. But here, instead of retaliating, Jesus asks us to give an extra tunic, turn the right cheek and to walk an extra mile. What does Jesus mean? He means to give the other the gift of forgiveness. Forgiveness reaps more fruits than retaliation. Forgiveness is the law of life as it restores life. The assassin of Sr. Rani Maria got converted because he was forgiven by the Sister’s family. The murderer of St. Maria Goretti got converted because of the forgiveness offered by her. This is the new law that Jesus brings in. But Christian response to the offender does not end here. Jesus not only wants his followers to forgive the other but to do something extra… the extra tunic, the extra mile… “pray for the persecutors” which we would be reflecting the day after.

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