This is a hard teaching, or perhaps we should say it is a difficult teaching, a challenging teaching. When we read all of chapter 5 we realize that this is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon comes near the beginning of Jesus’ preaching. It develops in a prepared way—rather than spontaneously—and it contains the core message of Christianity.
We should not be concerned about the origin of each of these teachings or whether they were given as one whole sermon or collected later by Matthew. Instead let us set ourselves to listen attentively. This Gospel passage is an explanation of the overall theme of love. Jesus is dismantling the common, strong inclination to seek retaliation, to exact revenge. So often we follow this lower instinct that requires nothing of our human nature—simply anger, brute force, animal cunning, “inner evil.” Although we might feel strong, crafty, in control, even justified, when we retaliate we are simply acting out of animal instinct.
Jesus wants us to stand before him, to stand also in our own presence, to reflect on what has angered us—usually it is something small: an insult, a slap, a demand. Why lower ourselves to a reaction similar to the insult? If we are the better person, shouldn’t our reaction be nobler? If someone wants something that is yours, give it rather than fall into a battle over it. If someone demands a service, give it willingly and even exceed the demand; give more. At the end Jesus suggests a way to ready ourselves for these difficult, demanding moments. He says, give to one who asks, do not deny one who wants to borrow. If we follow his advice our hearts will be big enough and our spirits strong enough to meet insult, injustice, and injury more gently, with nobility, with love as Jesus himself, the Son of God, met the great personal offense of his passion.
Jesus, my God and my example, you constantly met with insult, antagonism, and pressure as you went about preaching divine love and forgiveness. Your whole mission was centered on us—on our salvation. Make my heart similar to yours, meek and humble, that what I desire for every other person will be similar to what you desire—peace in this life and eternal happiness in the next. Amen.
Do not say no to kindness.
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 186–187). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us. We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from traveling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey.
Psychologists tell us that a true friend is someone who has seen us at our worst and still loves us. If you have encountered me only on my best days, when all is going well and I am in top form, and you like me, I have no guarantee that you are my friend. But when you have dealt with me when I am most obnoxious, most self-absorbed, most afraid and unpleasant, and you still love me, then I am sure that you are my friend. The old Gospel song says, "what a friend we have in Jesus!" This is not pious sentimentalism; it is the heart of the matter. What the first Christians saw in the dying and rising of Jesus is that we killed God, and God returned in forgiving love. We murdered the Lord of Life, and he answered us, not with hatred, but with compassion. He saw us at our very worst, and loved us anyway. Thus they saw confirmed in flesh and blood what Jesus had said the night before he died: "I do not call you servants any longer ... but I have called you friends" (John 14: 15). They realized, in the drama of the Paschal Mystery, that we have not only been shown a new way; we have been drawn into a new life, a life of friendship with God. The author of Psalm 139 wrote:
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast. (Ps. 139:7-10)
These words take on a new resonance and reveal their deepest significance in light of Easter. No matter where we run from God —no matter how we try to flee - God tracks us down and will not let us go. Paul Tillich read Psalm 139 as the sinner's lament, the cry of the soul who just wants to escape from the press of God: "How can I get away from you?" The answer fully disclosed in the dying and rising of Jesus is: "You can't; so stop trying." Because the Son of God has gone to the very limits of godforsakenness, we find that even as we run away from the Father, we are running directly into the arms of the Son. Unlike most contemporary New Age spiritualities, as we have seen, which emphasize the human quest for God, the biblical spirituality is the story of God's relentless search for us. And this narrative comes to its fulfillment in the recounting of God's journey into the darkest and coldest corner of human sinfulness - even into death itself - in order to find us. This divine finding, this friendship with God despite all of our efforts to avoid it, is salvation.
from The Strangest Way - Walking the Christian Path by Robert Barron pp. 97-98