But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; Mt 5: 44
Yeah right – you cannot be serious!
‘Because this may be the hardest commandment,’ according to Fr James Martin SJ, one cannot but help emit shock / horror upon each reading of Jesus’ new commandment. Rowan Baxter’s recent incineration of his wife and three children in the family car begs the question of love and compassion towards one whose heinous crime is off the scale in terms of horror and community outrage.
John McEnroe’s disbelief at the tennis umpire’s judgement is not dissimilar to the lawyer’s disbelieving response to Jesus’ reinterpretation of ‘neighbour.’ “So, Jesus,” the lawyer appears to be saying, “seriously, do I have to love all fellow human beings beyond my exclusive group of Facebook friends?”
For Jesus there was a ready response. Having compromised their sole commitment to the God of Israel some 700 years beforehand after suffering defeat at the hands of Assyria, Samaria had deeply angered fellow Jews by serving other gods as well. The animosity towards Samaritans by faithful Jews was as vitriolic as that of Americans towards the 9/11 terrorists. Since a Samaritan, the despised ‘enemy,’ turns out to be the ‘good guy’ in one of Jesus’ most famous parables, then, “yes Mr Lawyer, you are also called to go and do likewise!”
When enunciating values of a Catholic College to new parents, a local Principal emphasised that it was the least, lonely and lost that were central to the school’s mission rather than societal prestige and outstanding academic results.
As Brendan Byrne SJ reminds us: “it is a question of imitating the hospitality shown by the despised alien who broke through the barriers of ethnic and religious prejudice to minister to a fellow human being in need.”
In no way did Jesus condone the act of violence upon the victim, but He was at great pains to point out that God’s hospitality to all human beings cannot be outdone.
Too often are we like the young John McEnroe, the Lawyer or the parent seeking a ‘private’ education and the incumbent material values.
The haunting gap between the goal of Jesus’ new commandment and the limitations of our human inclination for love of those in our group is best articulated in Anthony De Mello’s SJ story of the Guru’s Cat.
When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat
would get in the way and distract the worshipers.
So, he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.
After the guru died the cat continued to be tied during evening worship.
And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram
so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.
Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s disciples
on the religious and liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.
The story of the guru’s cat is an encouragement and an invitation to review what we do habitually and to ask:
(Image from Pixabay by Jimmy Chan)