Monday of the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time – Mt 5:38-42
In a commentary on today’s Gospel, Saint Augustine notices how Jesus warns us against being too attached to three sorts of goods: first, our reputation, as indicated with the slap on the cheek, secondly, our material goods, as indicated by the tunic and cloak, and, thirdly, our work or time, as indicated by walking with someone a mile.
These three things can be good things that help us our way to heaven, or, they can be bad things if they prevent us from getting there. We can recall the most fundamental principle that Saint Ignatius of Loyola gives in the Spiritual Exercises, namely, “that people are created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save their souls. All other things on the face of the earth are created for them in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created. It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one’s end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one’s end.”
Sometimes we can become very attached to these things in our lives, but, if we really trust in God, we can see them in light of His plan for us. Whether we are popular or not, rich or poor, given credit when it is due or not, whether we need to spend extra time out of charity with a person in the parish or even with our community members, doesn’t really matter; God always provides when these things are needed and it is to Him alone that we must be attached.
Regarding reputation, Saint Augustine tells us that the rule of the Pharisees, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, was a good start, because vengeance shouldn’t be worse than the injury inflicted. However, he adds, while this is the beginning of peace, perfect peace is found in not desiring vengeance at all, and thus Christ taught His disciples “that no evil at all should be inflicted in return for evil.” Saint Theresa of Jesus, who suffered a great deal insults and attacks on her reputation, and yet nevertheless accomplished great things, wrote, “His Majesty will put it into somebody’s mind to defend you; if He does not, it will be because there is no need.”
Regarding things, Augustine says that here Christ wants our hearts to be prepared and if we should be disposed to have our cloak and tunic, meaning, necessarily things, taken away, how much more should we be ready for extras and comforts to be taken away! Again, it’s not that these things are bad, but we can’t become too attached to them.
Regarding work or time, Augustine says that by saying to go two miles, Christ is preparing His followers to give even more, to be disposed to give even more than what is asked for. This willingness to suffer even more for Christ, even beyond what is asked, trains our hearts in detachment and generosity.
We can ask ourselves: what is our attitude towards our reputation, our material goods, and our work or time? Do we see it as something that is getting us to heaven? Or are we still too attached to these goods?
Today, let us pray for the grace, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of All Hearts, to free ourselves from a disordered attachment to these things.