“If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
The readings for the 7th Sunday in ordinary time cycle A can be found here.
The [Code of Hammurabi] prologue or introduction to the list of laws is very enlightening. Here, Hammurabi states that he wants “to make justice visible in the land, to destroy the wicked person and the evil-doer, that the strong might not injure the weak.” The laws themselves support this compassionate claim, and protect widows, orphans and others from being harmed or exploited.
Historians will likely tell you about the origins of the “eye for an eye” phrase in today’s Gospel. It was taken from the Code of Hammurabi. Scripture scholars will likely talk about the six hyperthesis topics described in Matthew’s Gospel. Last Sunday we looked at anger and this Sunday we discuss retaliation. I would rather draw your attention to the subtext of all the hyperthesis topics: A Call to Action.
Surfers, Paul Boag tells us that “every website should have a call to action, a response you want users to complete.” In life, just as in Web sites like this blog, we are often called to action.
Paul Boag goes on to ask; “but how do you encourage users to act? How do you create an effective call to action?” Why not start with one of the greatest teachings of all time; the sermon on the mount? Paul Boag has his top 10 but today we are going to discuss some of Jesus’ top 10 taken from the Gospel of Matthew. Okay, Jesus’ teachings don’t fit into the top 10 format but it is fun to say.
We sometimes think of this admonition [love your enemies] as primarily internal and emotional. Jesus’ first audience heard it especially in terms of attitude and action, in terms of treating enemies as if they were friends, strangers as if they were kin, opponents as if they were family. That did not mean external action as distinct from internal attitude but simply placed emphasis on the former rather than the latter.
I recently watched a video, of Pope Francis I, speaking to a Pentecostal gathering of Kenneth Copeland Ministries. In the video the Pope does not speak until the 31:42 mark, so if you decide to watch just the Pope’s words you may want to advance to that point in the video. The video was brought to the gathering by Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer. His story, before the video, is intriguing and engaging so you may like this also.
In the video the Pope tells us that there are two rules: 1) love God, and 2) love the Other “because he is your Brother and Sister.” This is fitting for the 7th Sunday. Tony Palmer is responsible for ecumenical matters for his flock, so he is keen on breaking down the barriers between the factions of the Catholic Church. This message is also fitting for this Sunday. Both the Pope and Tony Palmer answered the call to action requested by Jesus in the Gospels. Now it is our turn to take action.
We will continue to use the new ethic as defined in the last homily using the phrase; “you have heard that it was said.”
You have heard that it was said that there is a word for those who do not believe everything the Catholic Church teaches: Protestant. But I say to you yearn that “this separation comes to an end and gives us communion.” Stop using terms of tribalism to create an artificial separation between people. Use instead the term of unity; human being.
Indeed, the Catholic Church is set apart and distinguished by these three characteristics: unity of doctrine, unity of organization, unity of worship.
– AD PETRI CATHEDRAM Encyclical by Pope John XXIII 1959
You have heard that it was said that Pentecostals are not in full communion with the Catholic Church unless they are united in doctrine, government, and worship. But I say to you love others beyond the bounds of any system, creed or book. If you believe that unity in God only exists in holding the exact religious practices, what reward will you have? Don’t those who teach hate do the same?
You may be thinking that this is changing the words of Jesus, but it is not. We are simply deepening the law established by Jesus to bring it back to the will of God. Leviticus said hate your enemies. Jesus said love your enemies (deeper understanding). We say in God there are no enemies (even deeper understanding).
If you take away one thought from this homily it should be to take action. Your internal changes are really only reflected in your outward actions. Express the love you have for those around you by acknowledging that your system does not hold all the truth of God. No system or even religion can corner the market on God.