Today Lisa Bright from the Pastoral Renewal team presents our Gospel reflection and reads from the Gospel of Matthew (5: 38-42) in which Jesus tells his followers to offer the wicked man no resistance, on the contrary, he says, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek as well.
Lisa says this would have to be one of the most challenging gospels. What Jesus is asking of us sounds great in theory, but when it comes time to put it in action, every well-intentioned rational thought goes out of the window and often anger, resentment and unhelpful thoughts creep in!
Lisa asks, ‘What am I hearing when Jesus shares these words in this Gospel?’
Jesus is sharing with us what true forgiveness is. This forgiveness that Jesus asks of us, is an imitation of God’s forgiveness. We hear all the time that nothing can keep us from God’s love. That God will always welcome us with open arms.
Forgiveness is the response we are all called to have as followers of Jesus because this is what God offers us.
Forgiveness though, does not mean becoming a doormat for someone’s abuse or ill treatment and in certain situations, we need to speak the truth in love. We might also at times need to reflect on whether we get caught up arguing over insignificant matters. Which means forgiveness sometimes means letting go. And that bit can be difficult as well!
So, if we are made in the image and likeness of God, and if Jesus is asking us to imitate God’s forgiveness, then what stops us from offering the other person the right cheek, or giving the other my cloak as well as a tunic? There are many things such as pride, jealousy, a sense of things being just unfair … how do we put them aside to show God’s love and forgiveness?
Lisa says she doesn’t have to look very far to see how difficult this action that Jesus asks of us is to implement in everyday situations, never mind the really, really big things! “I read this gospel passage and I think of my own children and imagine how Jesus might stand there and shake his head if he saw how they treated each other. There is definitely no offering a cloak if the other takes their tunic – lucky if the cloak and tunic get out in one piece!”
When trying to be the peacemaker Lisa says her response to them is consistent. “Always try and make a better decision. Always try and make the decision that doesn’t cause more anger and conflict, that doesn’t seek revenge, but shows that there is another way to be.” It’s a hard thing to do, especially when caught up in the emotion of the moment. What Lisa shares with her children is something she also tell herself in tense situations. And in such moments, the message that Jesus is telling us can be so challenging to put into practice.
In those moments, especially, Lisa tries to remember that we are ALL made in the image of God. That the person in front of her is loved by God! And that she is loved by God! And forgiveness and love is what must be offered to be the face of God to others.
In closing, Lisa says, “May we have the grace and generosity to be the face of God to others in all our interactions this week”.