Walking the Second Mile
Lev 19:1-2, 17-18; I Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48
One day a truck driver stopped at a restaurant for dinner and ordered a steak. Before he could eat it, in walked a motorcycle gang, with dirty leather jackets and long, unkempt hair. They took the man’s steak, cut it into six pieces, and ate it. The driver said nothing. He simply paid the bill and walked out. One of the gang members said, “That man couldn’t talk. He didn’t say a word.” Another one said, “He couldn’t fight, either; he didn’t lift a hand.” A waiter added, “I would say that he couldn’t drive either. On his way out of the parking lot, he ran over six motorcycles crushing all of them.” Something in us loves that story, because we like retaliation.
But today’s scripture readings prescribe forgiving love as the Christian trump card. The first reading, taken from the book of Leviticus, gives the holiness code: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” It also gives us the way to share God’s holiness: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The responsorial psalm challenges us to be like our God –kind, merciful and forgiving. In the second reading St. Paul gives us an additional reason to be holy. We are to keep our bodies holy because we are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit lives in us.
In the Gospel passages taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemns even the mild form of the tribal law of retaliation. The most ancient law teaches a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. Its author is Hammurabi. He lived 4300 years ago. When this law was first developed, it made life better and more civilized. Because in those days, if you wronged one tribe member, his buddies would murder your entire clan. Moses instructed the Israelites to follow tit-for-tat retaliation, rather than to wreak total destruction upon their enemies.
For Jesus, retaliation, or even limited vengeance, has no place in the Christian life. The meaning of “turn the other cheek” is “Don’t return insult for insult.” The message of Jesus is, “Don’t retaliate.” Instead, we are to win over the aggressor with tough, wise love, so that we may win people to Christ and transform human society into the Kingdom of God. Jesus wants his disciples to repay evil with kindness. Instead of retaliation, Jesus gives his new law of love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation and no retaliation.
“Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles”: If a Roman soldier saw a Jewish man or boy, he could command the person to carry his backpack or burden for a mile. The Jewish boy or man was required by law to carry this soldier’s burden for a mile. However, most Jews would not carry this burden one inch or one foot further than the law required. As you can imagine, this law caused terrible resentment among the Jews toward the Roman government. Can you imagine how the Jews felt when Jesus said, “go the second mile?” No doubt, the audience said, “He must be kidding – Does he really expect us to do more than the law requires us to do? In essence, Jesus was saying that his disciples need to do more than the legalists who do no more than what is required of them.
I believe that we as Christians are required to live in the second mile and Christianity is a second mile religion • Jesus requires us to live in the second mile. You might ask, what is Living in the Second Mile? Well! Hear my thoughts: • To love your neighbor is the first mile – to love your enemy is the second mile • To bless those who bless you is the first mile, – to bless those who curse you is the second mile • To do good to those who do good to you is the first mile – to do good to those who hate you is the second mile • Praying for those who pray for you is the first mile – praying for those who despitefully use you is the second mile.
Jesus requires us to live in the second mile. Christ lived in the second mile – He did this in two ways – His life and His teaching. When we consider the life of Christ, we quickly realize He was Living in the Second Mile. Let’s conclude by asking the Father for the grace and the courage to live out these words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount.