Meditation of Archbishop Pizzaballa for Sunday, February 19
February 19, 2017
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Today also we continue listening to the words of Jesus that make up the “Sermon on the Mount.”
We heard, at the beginning, the announcement of a new life, a different joy, contained in the Beatitudes; then we found out, through the images of light and salt, that this joy does not exist if it is not shared with our brothers and sisters. Then Jesus began to give a new law to this new saved people.
He explained to us, however, that in reality it was not a new law: nothing that was old was to pass away without being fulfilled. The prophets also, when announcing the messianic times, were thinking about a new relationship with God, but this new relationship would depend not so much on a new rule to follow, but on a new heart (cf. Jer 31:33), finally able to fulfill that plan of life and love that has always been in the heart of God.
It is not a law that can give fullness to a life; if anything, it’s the opposite. It is the heart, once healed by the experience of God’s compassion, which can finally listen to and trust the Word that God, always, addresses to it. The heart knows how to make the Word its own.
The two antitheses that we hear today go to the heart of this process of internalization.
In the first, Jesus starts with a well-known law, the law of retaliation, recounted in Exodus chapter 21: If someone does wrong to you, you do it to him in the same measure. This was a good law, modern, able to limit personal revenge and the spread of excessive violence. In the times in which it was written it was big news. For Jesus, however, one does not win by returning evil in the exact measure, as the Mosaic law states. Nor does Jesus limit himself by giving us another measure, perhaps milder; on the contrary, he completely changes the perspective.
He declares that in the moment the other takes something from us, we are called to give it to him: the evil that the other commits becomes the opportunity of our gratuitous love towards him, therefore no one takes anything away from us, because we are the ones who give to him, and give him a lot more than he can manage to take away from us.
The evil that the other commits is paradoxically no longer a bad thing, but it is exceeded by the full measure of our gift: what the other thinks to steal from me is nothing compared to what I want to give him, that is, everything.
Here, the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel come to mind: no one takes life from me, I give it myself (cfr. Jn 10:18).
And this applies in all dimensions of our existence, that is in all that we are, that we have and that we do.
In all that we are: if one wounds us in our dignity (“if someone stikes you on the right cheek” Mt 5:39), we do not defend ourselves, because our life belongs to someone else.
In all that we have: if one “wants to take away your coat” (Mt 5, 40), you also give him everything else, because what he takes from you is by then no longer yours.
And in everything that we do: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Mt 5:41), means, namely, to go beyond and to precede the other in offering a unique gift: because “giving to him” all the way is just what you also want.
We spend so much of our lives defending ourselves, defending what we are, what we have, and we do. According to Jesus it is, instead, becoming like those free and poor people, living constantly in a dynamic of gift, they have nothing to save. No one can ever take anything away, because everything in them is already given.
Finally, Jesus says that this attitude is called love, and by being such it must be for everyone. And now we are at the second antithesis.
It’s not enough to love those who already love us: that’s already something, certainly, but it is not yet the full measure and beauty to which we are called. The disciples’ love of the Kingdom must be able to reach everyone, even – and especially – those who are deprived of it, who do not show it to us, who do bad to us: they are the first to need love.
Why can we love like this?
Simply because we are children (Mt 5:45), and to become children more and more.
A son, at home, learns a style of life, a way of loving. The style of our house is that of the Father, who loves always and all because he cannot do anything else, because He, in Himself, is love and communion, and nothing else.
And this we have learned, not by words, but by experience, because we, first, were enemies (cf. Col 1:21), and we were unconditionally loved.
Besides, if we know how to look, all this is already simply inscribed by God in the law of creation: the sun rises every day on the good and the bad (Mt 5:45), and the rain falls on the just and the unjust.
We must keep clearly in mind that this is not a love of which we are capable: it does not come from our strength. It’s a new life that we receive as gift, which dwells within us thanks to the Spirit of the Father who lives in us. The deep sentiments of God’s Mercy are in us.
The only thing that allows this breakthrough in our lives is prayer: in fact, when he asks to love enemies, Jesus also asks us to pray for them (Mt 5:44). If you pray for a person, sooner or later you will come to love him/her; beause to pray for them means to entrust them to the Lord and give up any claim to judgment or hold on them.
And neither does one pray, in the first place, to change the other. One prays to open oneself up to this unthinkable measure of love that, while he loses everything, while he saves the other, gives, before anything elses, fullness to our lives, and imperceptibly, transforms history and engenders peace.
Original version in italian