SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The Sea Absorbs Hundreds of Rivers but has the Capacity for Many More
First Reading (1 Sam 26: 2, 7-9, l2-l3, 22-23): David did not wish to harm Saul
Second Reading (1 Cor 15: 45-49): Human beings are from the earth. But with Christ, in the end they also belong to heaven
Gospel (Lk 6: 27-38): The “Golden Rule” of Love
-“Only when raising your child will you realize the love and care of your parents.” (1)
-“The tree wishes to be still but the wind will not cease. The son wishes to care for his parents but they are no longer there.” (2)
-“An ordinary man when humiliated would pull out his sword, stand up and fight. This is not enough to be termed courage. In this world the really courageous man would not fear when suddenly faced with danger, and would not get angry even when accused unreasonably. What people like that contemplate and long for are greater and deeper, and their life ambitions are also much higher.” (3)
-“Having gone through many hardships and catastrophes to find one's brother still alive, when they meet a simple smile wipes away all debts of gratitude and revenge.”(4)
“I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt... Do to others as you would have them do to you.”(Lk 6: 27-31)
In the Gospel there is a sentence that non-believers always ridicule. That is the sentence “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” Matthew's gospel is even clearer: “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” (Mt 5:39)
A non-believer will challenge us, saying, ‘Can you Christians really do what Jesus said? If I strike you now, will you really not hit me back?’
To understand Jesus' words as quoted above, we need a shift in our thinking, a new way of looking at things. We need to raise our outlook to a higher level of how to treat others. Some term this change in our thinking ‘a paradigm shift’.
A paradigm shift leads us into a new state of mind. It is as if we have put on new glasses and see life and the world in an entirely new way. We enter into a new phase of life, like moving from the stage of childhood to that of parenthood.
In the Chinese saying, “Only when you have raised your child will you realize the love and care of your parents,”(1) the words 'only when' say clearly that before adults become parents, they will find it very difficult to understand the feelings of their parents 'When' we have become parents, then we will truly understand how much our parents love us. But often we cannot go back to that period in time. It remains a life-long regret we cannot rectify. It is as the Chinese adage says, “The tree wishes to be still but the wind never ceases. The son wishes to care for his parents but they are no longer there.” (2)
This is what is meant by a paradigm shift. Only after we have entered into this new kind of life can we take a different stance to ponder anew, (put ourselves in another's shoes) and have this kind of a new way of contemplating and thinking.
When Jesus talked this way he was not referring to one individual action. He was not teaching us to ask ourselves, 'If you strike me, what about me?' What he was talking about was the paradigm shift we just mentioned: a new way of treating both people and material things, a new way of opening ourselves to the world. He was inviting us to enter into a totally new level of life, a new universe of limitless forbearance and mutual forgiveness. There would no longer be petty revenge, feuding, hatred or enmity. Life would be full of laughter, everlasting love and tolerance.
‘If I strike you, what will you do?’ This is just joking, it is not the attitude of life that Jesus was talking about. We need pay no attention to that kind of talk.
Regarding different modes of thought and attitude towards life, Su Shi had this example of courage in his ‘Essays on Posterior Ministers:’ An ordinary man when humiliated, would pull out his sword, stand up and fight. This is not enough to be termed courage. In this world the really courageous man will not fear when suddenly faced with danger, and will not get angry even when he is accused unreasonably. What people like that contemplate and long for are greater and deeper, and their life ambitions are also much higher.”(3) The attitude of an ordinary person or the man on the street or even the coward is vastly different from that of a truly courageous person. They belong to two different kinds of people, with two different modes of thinking and acting.
When another person insults or ridicules you, and you grow angry and even fight, you are only being foolhardy.( 'having the bravery of a horse'). The courageous person may also be chivalrous, with high aspirations and determination, strong feelings and moral strength, that is, with the kind of magnanimity, bearing and disposition of the virtuous person that Jesus invites all of us to be. That kind of person has a farsighted viewpoint that is broad, deep and sees through people. Such a person is totally different from a foolhardy one who tries to take revenge or pretends to be brave.
There are broad-minded people who can put aside unpleasant incidents with a smile. Lu Zun had this kind of stature and personality. He was described in this way: “Having gone through many hardships and catastrophes to find one's brother still alive, when they met, a simple smile wiped away all debits of gratitude and revenge.” (4) That is the kind of magnanimity, broadmindedness and virtue we are talking about.
We live in a materialistic world and we only know how to be practical and to think about what will bring returns; we want our behavior to be 'worth' something. We become too rational, always asking 'Why'? Actually the most worthwhile life and most touching story most often happens 'for no reason'. Great solicitude for others and great love are like that.
So how can we raise our life to reach such a level? The Gospel suggests to us two possible ways. First of all, we must enter into the heart and mind of God, asking God to help us change, so that we can see this world objectively and clearly from God's viewpoint of love and tolerance for others. Secondly, we must try to enter into the other's viewpoint, which means putting ourselves into the shoes of others, trying to see life and events from their point of view: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”These are the two ways that will enable us to be magnanimous and broad-minded in a life that leads to far-reaching horizons.