- Sunday, 20 February 2011 18:59
Today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew poses a crucial question for our following Christ: How do we do it? The line that is frequently often misunderstand:
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it
was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no
resistance to one who is evil.
Several credible witnesses give a fruitful look at what it means to be a Christian today. Saint Basil the Great (330-January 1, 379) wrote in Letter 2 that:
try to keep the mind in quietness. For if the eye is constantly shifting its
gaze, one moment this way or that, then veering between upwards and down, it
cannot see clearly what lies directly in front of it. It has to bring its
gaze to bear on this object so as to see it clearly in focus. In the same way a
mind distracted by thousands of worldly concerns cannot possibly bring a steady
gaze to bear on the truth.
Another image: you cannot write on wax tablets unless everything previously written on them has been erased – and the soul cannot receive godly teaching without first clearing out of the way its own preconceived ideas. With this in view a time of withdrawal is of the greatest benefit, as it calms our compulsive passions and gives reason a clear space to cut them down to size.
In one the provocative interviews of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said in God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald (Ignatius Press, 2002), pp. 210-1.
With the coming of Christ, the Old Testament laws, not only certain laws of ritual sacrifice but also that wretched “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”, have been superseded. Do we not find ourselves having to that God corrects himself?
Here again, I would want to talk about traveling a historical path. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” sounds frightful, but after all it was at first a principle of justice that contained and directed vengeance. The retaliation must correspond to the offense; it must not run out of control but be limited to what has been done. In that sense, this was a step forward to something that in fact is still recognized in the administration of justice. Besides this progress in legal thinking, we would, of course, have to add that it is only through love that breaks the chain of reprisal that anything new can ever really come into being.
In the course of this conversation we have already dealt with the saying: “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” Where the question of the Temple sacrifices is concerned, we confront this saying in quite concrete terms. The sacrificial offerings were always only a substitute. And when the one comes who gives the real thing, and who thereby brings man to the point of being able to give himself to God, then the whole meaning of these sacrificial procedures has been fulfilled in him. Now, the whole of what the Temple represented, and was meant to be, is present in him as the living Temple. Thus, something is not simply done away with, but its goal is brought to achievement.
In this way, what the Temple was trying to do is still present in the Eucharist. But now in that meaningful form to which earlier rites were only preliminary approaches. So I would not say that God got it right the second time. We see, rather, how he allows men at first those forms they cannot yet get beyond, as part of a path that carries within it its own inner dynamic and necessarily leads them farther on. What this path truly signified is now fulfilled and receives its rightful place.
Further on the subject of charity and looking at the question from the angle of peace we’d have to that we are not good examples of forgiveness if left to our own devices.