Commentary on the Gospel of
If we hear these as rules of conduct or obligatory behavior for becoming a disciple, we are missing the point. This is one of the reasons Christianity is dismissed by so many.... taken literally, Jesus seems to be advocating passivity in the face of all manner of mistreatment. Let people walk all over you now, your reward is in heaven, i.e. “later.”
But his discourse begins with a key phrase, “to you who hear...”. One would assume the hearing is intact for the great majority of people who were gathered, so why begin is discourse with that phrase? Perhaps Jesus is speaking to those who “get it,” whose world view had already been turned upside down. Those who were already living in the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Love, understand that Jesus is talking about receiving our identity from God, rather than from how others treat us. “Nobody is going to take advantage of me” is not an identity we receive from God.
Those who live in the kingdom are willing to risk being generous, forgiving and vulnerable, as they draw from the Ultimate Abundant Source – God – the source of all generosity, forgiveness and vulnerability. They live without the protection of power, position, privilege and righteousness. “We are called to be light for the kingdom, to live in the freedom of the city of God!” is how the song goes. Letting our light shine brightly, without fear of being snuffed out, ushers us into the kingdom of God now, not later.
Our first reading tells the story of David’s restraint in not killing Saul when seemingly, God had presented this auspicious moment. We are challenged daily to show restraint, not in the battlefield, but in board rooms, classrooms and family rooms. Restraint from harming others is a good thing, demonstrates human maturity, but Jesus is offering us so much more: Spiritual Freedom!
The second reading from Paul reminds me of a quotation attributed to Teilhard de Chardin. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” And what an adventure it is.