Going the extra mile

I heard on the radio that this is Random Acts of Kindness Week. I don’t know who decides these things but I think this one is a great idea, and it’s certainly in line with what Jesus says in the Gospel this weekend. We’re expected to be kind to our family and friends and to those who have been kind to us, but Jesus points out that there’s nothing unusual in that. To show kindness randomly, to a stranger, or to someone you know when there’s no obligation and no expectation that they will return your kindness, or even to an enemy, is to go beyond what is usual. That’s exactly what Jesus tells his disciples to do. As he did in the passage we heard last week, he takes examples from the Jewish Law and says, in each case, that’s not enough.

First he quotes the Law that sets limits to the vengeance you can take against someone who hurts you – no more than an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth – and says instead that you shouldn’t react violently even when someone does hurt you. Instead of loving your neighbour and hating your enemy, he urges us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

This doesn’t make sense in the way of the world: as St Paul says, the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God, and that is the heart of the matter. The reason Jesus says we should act in this way is the same reason that God gave Moses in the first reading: ‘Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy’. Or as Jesus puts it, ‘You must therefore be perfect as just as your heavenly Father is perfect’. It’s not because being kind to everyone will win us friends or help us succeed in this life (though it may). It’s because Jesus has revealed to us what God is like, and by becoming human, has opened the way for us to become divine, to share in God’s own life. We belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God, so we are meant to behave as God behaves.

So I think Jesus would approve of Random Acts of Kindness Week, except that he would say that every week should be the same, and what a difference that would make in our world.

 

Fr Chris

 

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