Shane Hyland, Leader of School Evangelisation at St Joseph’s Regional College reads today from the Gospel of Matthew (5: 43-48) which continues with Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’.

Shane says it is easy for us to interpret this passage as Jesus teaching that the scriptures instruct us to hate our enemies. However, it is quite the opposite.

If we pay close attention to the way in which Matthew phrases these passages, they begin with “you have learnt that it was said” or in the NRSV translations “you have heard that it was said”. Elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus is referring to scripture he always says, “have you not read” or “let the reader understand”. So, when Jesus is referring to the interpretation and teaching of scripture he says “you have learnt” or “you have heard” but when referring directly to scripture he uses ‘read’ or ‘it is written’.

So, when Jesus says, ‘You have learnt how it was said: you must love your neighbour and hate your enemy’, we can understand that Jesus is critiquing the way that those teachings were being interpreted by the teachers of the time and, in particular, the Pharisees.

He is not attacking the Old Testament or the Hebrew scriptures as we now call it; he is defending it and its incorrect interpretation. And how easy it is for us to hate our enemies, to exact revenge for the wrong that people do to us.

Instead, Jesus points out that we are all sons and daughters of God, made in God’s image who God makes rain fall on each of us equally.

In closing, Shane invites to reflect on these questions: Who do you consider to be your enemies? How have you reflected the image of God to those around you?