Year C: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Luke 6: 27-38
At first glance, today’s Gospel could look as if Jesus is asking his disciples to become doormats - turning the other cheek - or handing over a tunic when someone asks for a cloak.
However, Jesus was not a doormat and it is very unlikely that he intended his disciples to be.
Rather he is offering a way of life in which the poor and powerless can act from a position of strength - to take an initiative which confronts their opponent and which leaves the wrong where it belongs. Their dignity does not depend on how others treat them.
He does not suggest that this is an easy option but a radical alternative - something beyond what “even sinners” do. It is very easy to be kind to those who are nice to us - and to love those who love us. The challenge for Christians is to go further.
Among Jesus’ own disciples there were strong characters and the potential for disastrous relationships. Simon the Zealot was violently opposed to Roman occupation - Matthew had made a living as a tax-collector in effect collaborating with the Romans.
In the early Church at Philippi, Luke would have met a community in which a wealthy woman called Lydia met and worshipped on equal terms with dockers from the local port.
Christian communities are never uniform - people hold different political views - or have strong opinions - belong to different social groups and so on. And yet, week by week, we gather to worship God and, hopefully, to build up the Body of Christ in our own community and the locality in which we live.
To do this, we have to employ much of the teaching in today’s Gospel, cultivating qualities of compassion, forbearance and forgiveness. We have to go beyond what might be expected in a club or other organisation - being willing to sacrifice something of our own self-interest in order to create harmony.
Such a community is a powerful witness to the world and will attract others to us. Yes, we may find ourselves exploited from time to time - but, as Jesus says, God is never outdone in generosity - and what we give we will receive back in even greater abundance.
What does it mean for me?
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