Love: Morality of Christianity

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Week VII-A, 23 February 2020

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 ><)))*> Matthew 5:38-48

Altar of the modern Minor Basilica of the Holy Trinity at Fatima, Portugal. Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2017.

Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount this Sunday just in time for the start of Lent this coming Ash Wednesday. He taught us last Sunday that righteousness is not only measured by acts but most of all by the purity of the heart’s intentions that we call “education of the heart”.

Today Christ comes to the demands of charity and love, the fullness of the Laws in himself.

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. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well… You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father..”

Matthew 5:38-39, 43-45

See again the Lord’s pattern in his preaching like last Sunday: a recall of the laws to show his adherence to them contrary to claims of his enemies, and then his infusion of his teaching that perfects the laws: “You have heard… But I say to you…”

Jesus focuses only on two laws today, that of revenge or “lex talionis” (from Latin talio for the word such) and that of hate for enemy which needs some clarifications.

Nowhere do we find in the Laws of Israel “to love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. Experts say Jesus must be citing a popular saying of his time in this part of his teaching. Besides, the Aramiac spoken by the Lord does not connote the harsh meaning we have today for the word “hate”. In short, Jesus is correcting here the norm among Jews of his time to “just love those who love us”.

This is why he adds this beautiful explanation with the most unique conclusion of all.

“For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:46-48
Photo by Lorenzo Atienza, 12 June 2019, Malolos Cathedral.

A fraternity of humanity in the Father

Here we find a beautiful dimension of Jesus Christ’s assertion last week that he had come to fulfill the Laws: more than having a broader approach to the spirit of the laws, education of the heart leads us to see everyone as a brother and a sister.

No one is different. Every one is a family – a kin! which is the root of the word “kind”.

Being kind is more than being good as we say in Filipino, mabait or mabuti.

Being kind is treating the other person as a kin, a relative or family; someone who is not different from us. When we say “he is kind to me”, it means more than being good to me but treating me as a family, a brother or a sister – not as “another” or “iba sa akin” as we say in Filipino.

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul, Baguio City, 03 February 2020.

This is the essence of our “Year of Inter-religious Dialogue, Ecumenism, and Indigenous Peoples” in preparation next year of our 500 years of Christianity in the country.

Everybody is included in that celebration as we reach out to peoples of other faith and beliefs as well as to the indigenous peoples whose forefathers were actually the first settlers of the country.

This is very important in any dialogue and relationship and partnerships including marriage: there must always be the acceptance of everyone in equal footing with same dignity as a person. It is from here we start that fullness of the Laws in Christ in love.

Human holiness as a reflection of God’s holiness in love

Love can only happen where there is equality and fairness. Love demands we are first of all at equal footing with each other. This is why Jesus became human like us: the Son of God became human to stand on equal footing with us that we cannot argue that he is greater because he is truly human, too, going through everything we have gone through except sin.

When he said that we offer our other cheek, to give our cloak, and go for another mile, he is not referring to criminal or penal codes but more into our humanity, that spirit of universal brotherhood so that even our oppressors and enemies come to realize within them that we are one, that we should be caring for one another, not hating and hurting each other.

Loving our enemies does not mean we let evil continue; loving our enemies means continuing to “love” perpetrators of evils until they realize we are brothers and sisters, keeping each other, caring for each other.

Loving our enemies is making them realize that there are nobody else here on earth for them except us – why fight and perish?

Yes, these are easier said than done. And admittedly, I must confess it is the most difficult part of the gospel, of being a Christ-ian. But it is something Jesus is asking us in the most personal manner.

From Google.

Let it be clear that Jesus is not asking us to behave with naiveté that we give in to injustice, evil, and violence but that we always be peacemakers, the blessed ones he said in his Beatitudes. In our fight for justice and peace, we fight with the moral persuasions of love which is the morality of Christ.

The American civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had shown in our modern time that the Lord’s teachings are doable: we just have to be convinced and must truly believe in Jesus.

“Love is the most durable power in the world. This creative force is the most potent instrument available in mankind’s quest for peace and security.”

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When we love truly in Jesus Christ, asserting what is true, what good, what is just, we make God truly present in the world. When that happens, the more we allow him to do his works of changing us within, of transforming us within. It is in our imperfect love that we make God present, the perfect I Am.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:1-2, 18
Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Santorini in Greece, 2016.

Hubris, our greatest temptation and sin

The Season of Lent is fast approaching us, set to start with Ash Wednesday this week. It is a season characterized by barrenness: no Gloria and Alleluias, no flowers, no decorations, no images to make us turn back to God again, our Lord and Master alone.

St. Paul reminds us today in our second reading that we are “God’s temple… that there is no need to boast of anyone including one’s self” (1Cor. 3:16, 21). Instead of embracing or holding on to anyone including one’s self, we have to embrace the scandal of the cross of Christ, that is, power in weakness, wisdom in what the world considers folly.

For the ancient Greeks as depicted in their epics, the greatest temptation and sin of man is hubris – the arrogant presumption that he is god, that he can do everything, he can have everything that he defies the gods.

Hubris is the sin of pride that has led everyone from Adam and Eve to all the powerful men and women of history into their downfall. It is absolute power crumbling absolutely, always tragically.

In his Sermon on the Mount where we heard many of the Lord’s teachings this whole month of February, Jesus shows us the path away from hubris, his path of love and holiness in the Father. Let us heed his calls, give his teachings a try and a chance to be fulfilled in us.

A very lovely and loving Sunday to you!

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