The Father's all-embracing love

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

A story is told that once, Robert di Vicenzo, a top golfer from Argentina, rushed to his car to go home after receiving a check for winning the first prize in a golf tournament. While walking towards his car, a woman approached him, congratulated him and later told him that she desperately needed help. Her little boy was sick and would surely die if he did not receive some very special and expensive treatment which she couldn't afford.

Di Vicenzo was so moved by her story that he took his first prize check from his pocket, endorsed it, and gave it to the woman saying, "I hope this will help you to at least give your child some good days."

The following week he returned to the country club for a luncheon. There, an official of the Professional Golfers' Association took him aside and said, "One of your colleagues saw you give away your prize money in the parking lot last week. Well, I've got news for you. The woman you gave it to is a con artist. She'd use that 'dying child routine' many times. You've been duped."

"You mean there is no little boy who is dying?" di Vicenzo asked. "That's right," said the official. Whereupon, Di Vicenzo smiled and said, "Isn't that the best news I have heard all week!"

We, too, have been duped in one way or another. What was our reaction when this happened to us? We were angry at the person who duped us or at ourselves for having been duped so easily. We might even look for the person who duped us to retrieve what we gave. Worse, we might even file a case against him - not only to teach him a lesson but also to prevent him from duping more people. But is this the way Jesus wants us to act?

In Mt. 5: 21-48, Jesus makes explicit the requirements of Christian justice and love. The style He uses is worth noting, namely, "You have heard that it was said... But I say to you..." "It was said" refers to what God said to the Chosen People at Mt. Sinai when He gave them the Law (Torah). "I say to you" is what Jesus now teaches with regard to the laws which need to be revoked or amplified. With this, Jesus teaches His followers that if there is a conflict over what the genuine will of God is, the Torah must now cede to His words.

In the gospel reading (Mt. 28-38), we hear Jesus talk about retaliation and hatred for one's enemy which He replaces with the law of love.

The law of retaliation, the lex talionis, says, "Anyone who inflicts an injury on his neighbor shall receive the same in return. Limb for limb, eye for eye, tooth for tooth! The same injury that a man gives another shall be inflicted on him in return" (Lev. 24:19-20). Then, when a member of one tribe injured a member of another, there could be outright war in which all the members of the tribe were involved. There were no limits on the revenge that might be inflicted. With this law, the annihilation of families, clans and tribes were prevented as it commanded proportionate retaliation to avoid unrestricted blood lust and feud. Thus in a sense the law was merciful.

Still, Jesus revokes this law when He said, "But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well." With this Jesus teaches His disciples that they must not be provoked into retaliation for the wrong done against them. Neither should another's hostility be their cue to take action. We will see why later.

Then Jesus moves on to confirm the Torah's law of love for one's neighbor. However, for the Jews, neighbor means their fellow Jews. Thus others are 'non-neighbors' and therefore are not covered by the law of love. Jesus rejects such limitation to love. He also rejects any interpretation of the Law that permits people to hate their enemies when He said, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father." Why? Because this is the way His Father acts - "He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust." In effect, the Father's love is not only all-embracing but also without limit. This is the kind of love that Jesus wants His disciples to have.

Jesus Himself is the first to admit that love does not transform enemies into instant friends. In fact, in the end, His enemies succeeded to have Him put to death.

Neither will love solve all our personal and the world's problems. But we must keep on loving because that is the way of the Father and the way of Jesus. As Jesus' disciples, we are asked to do no less. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect" - which really sums up the commandment of love.

If we live up to this commandment of love, then we, too, may be able to do a di Vicenzo and more. And the world will be better off for them.

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