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Rough Cuts | Lex Taliones in biblical times

Today is Sunday, February 23, 2020. It is the seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar.

This day’s Responsorial Psalm is Ps. 103 which says, “The Lord is kind and merciful,”
This Sunday’s 1st Reading is from Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-1.
The Lord said to “Moses, Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be Holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.

You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow man, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish to grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
This day’s 2nd Reading is from 1 Corinthians 3:16-23.
Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God which you are, is holy.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written.
God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you. Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future; all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

In today’s Gospel taken from Mathew 5:38-48 it shares Jesus’ teaching about retaliation and love of enemies.
Jesus said to his disciples: You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. 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. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

You have heard that it was said, You should love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. That you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rains to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

REFLECTION: There is a joke among Filipinos that when someone throws a stone at you, out of obedience to the biblical command, you should throw bread at him in return – along with the garapon or the glass container.
In the Sermon on the Mount, in the section about “greater holiness,” Jesus commands his disciples to go beyond the Torah of Moses that, among others, orders: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This specifies that one’s limb lost is to be compensated by the offender’s limb, a life for another life. This is popularly called lex taliones or law of such/equivalent; a damage requires only an equivalent damage as payment. Though it may seem too cruel to many, it has, in fact, a benevolent purpose: it curtails the impulse for vengeance and unnecessary bloodshed. For it is not a rarity in biblical times that when a person kills another person, his whole family will be killed in retaliation. This rage could be traced from the beginning of human relationships.

Let us just be simply reminded of the Cry of Lamech: “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for bruising me. So if Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times. (Genesis 4:23-24).”

NB: Our heartfelt thanks to the St. Paul’s Publishing, which publishes the book 365 Days with the Lord, a liturgical biblical diary, from where we source the Word of God that we share to our fellow faithful every Sunday all throughout the year. — Columnist

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