SERMON OF THE WEEK September 11, 2011
- SERMON OF THE WEEK
September 11, 2011
Next Sunday is the fourth Sunday after Assumption of St. Mary. Gospel reading for Sunday is from Mathew 5:38-48.
Gospel Reading: (Mathew 5:38-48)
"38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[a] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you 43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[c] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Message: In the gospel we read in verse 38, Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth", but I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also."
In reality, the intent of "Eye for an eye"law was to restrict retaliation to the value of the loss. The literal meaning is that a person who has injured another is instructed to give equal to the value of his loss in compensation. Its purpose was based on the principle to provide an equitable restitution for the offense.
This principle of "eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth" is a quotation from the passages in Leviticus 24:19-21, Exodus 21:22-25, and Deuteronomy 19:21 in which a person who has injured another is instructed to give in equal value for the other person's loss in compensation. It was not intended as revenge, but only to implement strict justice. However, in some instances, unfortunately, it resulted in vengeance.
Jesus talks about this law, "Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth," and asks for new interpretation. This saying of Jesus is frequently interpreted as criticisms of the Old Testament teaching and often taken as implying this law encourages excessive retaliaation. In reality, the law was intended to restrict retaliation to the value of the loss.
Jesus says not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Jesus focuses on mercy. Going for revenge is, of course, part of human nature. It is self-centered and destructive at best in the sense that it desires to strike at another person to gain self satisfaction. If one takes out vengeance on another through litigation or retaliation, the other person will eventually end up ruling the litigant's life. Justice might be served but the litigant's life would become much more miserable later because he will be thinking about new ways to get even with the other person who will exercise more control over the litigant even without any personal contacts. If the litigant could let it go, then he would become much happier and become much easier to talk to.
Jesus is saying that we don't have to take the law to its limits in order to get even. Jesus says we should see the law from the standpoint of wanting to exercise mercy rather than vengeance. God chooses mercy over vengeance. Taking someone to court could end up misery on us later on. Jesus asks us to bring something good out of a bad situation. If possible, offer mercy and forgiveness.
1 Peter 3:9 repeats this principle. "Don't repay evil with evil, or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."
Going an extra mile of forgiveness is not at all difficult when we can see the benefit it has for us. Instead of exercising bitterness or resentment and then spending the entire life griping, complaining and employing ourselves in self-pity is not worth it. Instead, we can enjoy the privilege of being able to serve others better or do better things for others by exercicing mercy and forgiveness.
Just because we have the right to retaliate doesn't mean we have to engage in that process. Let's pray to God to help us focus our life on mercy. Relationships are more important than keeping our rights. Let's help ourselves to do everything we can to find agreement first and always .
Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil