7th Sunday in Ordinary Time year A

Matthew 5:38-48

As we grow in life, we experience the sensation of cause and effect, that if a certain thing happens there’s an expected outcome. That is a good thing because if things did not occur as we expected them to occur then there would be chaos. It is because things happen as we expect that we are able to build skyscrapers and drive around in cars. That is the working assumption of mathematics, applied physics, and engineering. What about relationships? Are relationships so predictable? Well, we have the social sciences, societies, and governments. Generally, when we accept these institutions it’s mutually beneficial because we’re able to live alongside each other and support each other in relative peace.

What do we do when relationships turn sour, when we are forced to encounter evil and sin? How do we respond to persecution? Is it tit for tat? Do we respond to evil with evil? The sad reality of human expectation is that it traps us in a limited frame of reference - our response is simply as the law requires. Jesus offers us a way forward. He demonstrates to us that relationships are more than simple adherence to expectations. In fact, life probably will not turn out as we expect. We are not programmed robots but human beings, and no two human beings are exactly the same. We are self-conscious and self-aware, we are curious and we dream. We seek things beyond what we already know, we get excited by surprises, laugh, sing, and dance, and we create art. Jesus commands us to love and we are, in particular, beings capable of love.

Expectations, cause and effect, and even science can’t account for love; the math doesn’t add up. Once expectations or conditions are placed on love, we recognise that it is not authentic love. It is not true love when we only ever do what someone asks us to do. It is not true love when we give with expectation of return. It is not true love when someone persecutes us and we persecute them in return. Love is only love when it is for the good of the other and there is no expectation of return. How far can love go? It goes all the way. As the sun shines and rain falls on good and evil people alike, God loves good and evil people alike for their sake. God loved us and the universe into existence without expectation of any return. So too we are called to love even our enemy. We are called to love authentically for the sake of others without expectation of return for that is how God loves us.

Fr William Loh, O.P. Chaplain for Monash University.