Saturday of First week in Lent (Dt 2:16-19; Mt 5:43-48) Often it is so easy to love those who love us, and to greet those who greet us. How happy we would be if everyone loves us, and as we walk down the street everyone greeted us. The corollary of this, with most of us, is that if someone does not greet us, we get angry, think they did it purposely to insult us (even though that person may have not seen you or was lost in some other thought). Then for the rest of our lives, we turn our faces away when we see them. When we love those who love us, we are going into a “conditional” relationship or in a “contract”. It is not love. Love is unconditional. On the other hand, we often do not even love those who love us and care for us and ignore them and even often treat them worse than “dirt”. Jesus is calling Christians to look outward and towards humanity as a whole. Unfortunately, many sects while “claiming” to be Christian are doing exactly what Jesus condemns. They are good only to those who belong to their group and greet only these people calling them “brother”, and others they just ignore. So, why does Jesus speak about tax collectors loving those who love them. If we look carefully, we realize that Jews hated the tax collectors. No doubt, the tax collectors (whom they considered as working for the Romans – the enemies of the Jews) had great power, but they were often treated as outcasts and traitors. As we see even now with many businesses, they have their own groups where people of a particular business or trade come together. These are sort of self-help groups not so much born out of love, but of fostering business, and to give themselves a clout when dealing with authorities and others to bargain powerfully and to make their voice heard. This helped them all. So perhaps, if someone tried to complain about a particular tax collector, then the other tax collectors would gang up to defend this tax collector, suggesting that this person was following the law etc and being falsely accused. If someone got violent with one tax collector, the whole body of tax collectors would march up and then the person who performed the violent act, perhaps had to either run far away, or say his “last prayers” (to use a current terminology). It also meant that if one of the tax collectors refused to defend another, the whole body would ignore this tax collector in his time of difficulty. This love between tax collectors was not love. Jesus wants His disciples to love as He did. One realizes also that the ordinary everyday things that we see are not that precious. If we are just doing an ordinary everyday job, and just so, there will be no appreciation. If we want appreciation, we must do something “more” (or at the least do what we are doing extremely well and efficiently). To give an example, you could have a taxi driver who drives you around town. But if he is polite and smiles and says thank you, you are pleasantly surprised, and wish to do something more or give something more to that taxi driver. We want God our Father to do something “more” for us. We want “seats reserved” in heaven for us. Should we then not stop making life “hell” for those around us? The first model therefore that Jesus gives us is that of the sun and rain. He wants our love to be like this. The sun does not say that they will not shine on particular persons who did not appreciate it or because “so and so did not fall down and worship me” (many cultures did and do worship the sun). The rain falls equally on the good and the bad. Jesus wants our love to be like this. He wants us to love even our enemies. Next, he takes it a step even further than these models (of the sun and the rain). Jesus tells us to do something special even for those who persecute us (namely to pray for them). Now, for a Jew, praying for someone was more than just wishing the person good, it was wishing that God will bless them in every area. Of course, many of us are very happy praying “against” (rather than for such people). Leave alone, our persecutors, even if someone just as much says something against us, we might end up praying for the total destruction of this person, and all that he has, and not only that but also against his family and children and perhaps (as they say) the next seven generations. Jesus is telling us to come out of hate and revenge and into love. Why does Jesus tell us to do this? Jesus says that this will prove us to be children of our Father. Very often, when a small child misbehaves in public, a question gets asked, “whose child is this?” By our actions we prove whether we really are God’s children or that of the evil one. Jesus then gives us the “perfect” model worth emulating. He says, “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. Many of as children have wanted to emulate our parents or we see children copying their parents. They borrow their parents clothes, they use their parents mechanisms (including that of walking and speech and the various phrases that the parents use) and even copy the profession of their parents (so they want to be a doctor if their parent is a doctor). Our human parents have imperfections. God in Christ Jesus today is giving us the perfect example and model, that of God our Father, who is perfect. Jesus wants us to follow His model of perfection. Let us try it just for today.
Posted on: Sat, 15 Mar 2014 04:10:57 +0000
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