Going the extra mile with love


I find the readings for today’s Mass all to be interconnected. (You can find the readings right here.) Jesus offers an ethic of how to live: to give beyond what is asked for, and to respond to oppression and to resist it with love. For example, Jesus says that when someone is asked to serve for one mile, to do a second mile. Jews could be pressed into service under Roman rule and to carry the pack for the Roman. Soldiers’ packs then, as now, were heavy and so this would be a burdensome task. This treats the Jewish person like a servant or even a slave, and yet when the person goes a second mile, the power dynamic shifts. He now is making a choice as to how to serve this other human being–no longer a slave, but free, to quote St Paul. Similarly, if someone demands a cloak and one offers a tunic as well, the dynamic now becomes about what is freely offered, and not simply being subjected to the demands of another. Thus, in a sense one refuses to be a slave or to be oppressed, by taking it upon oneself to serve. It is a form or resistance in love.

One might ask how and where this capacity to “go the extra mile” comes from. After all, our human instincts and impulses are to refuse another’s unjust demands, to become angry or upset, or perhaps just to grudgingly undertake the task and later complain about it to others (“those Romans!”). To act as Jesus does is to go beyond what is instinctive or even natural as a human response. The earlier readings, though, give a clue: we are a temple in which God resides. The Spirit of God is within us. Jesus’ words also reaffirm this call to act like God: if God loves the just and the unjust alike, then we are also called to do the same. One might protest: “but I’m only human, and not God, and therefore not obliged to do…” This is true, in that we need to take care of ourselves and ‘water the interior garden of the soul’. Yet ultimately we do each have the Spirit of Love inside of us that is capable of great, merciful love that exceeds what human norms tell us is possible. Those seeds of love can be nurtured and grown through prayer, through knowing of God’s love in a personal and intimate way, so that this love—and not how others treat us—is what sustains and guides us in all of our daily actions. God is Love, and because we are God’s, so are we.

4 thoughts on “Going the extra mile with love

  1. Thank you for this encouraging note today. It’s interesting to learn the history behind “going the extra mile”, and I like the way you describe they dynamics involved in turning the situation around so that we’re responding out of love. I needed that inspiration today. God blesses you with understandings and writings that you then pass on to others. A friend recently shared a link to your blog and now I follow it regularly. Have a beautiful day!

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  2. Thank you very much for this beautiful text. Your text helps me a lot to understand some feelings and emotions toward my husband and my marriage. It encourages me to continue to follow the God voice inside me, because in parallel, I feel so human and so lost sometimes. Thank you so much.

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