“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:27-31
All perfection is in Christ, and His precepts. “For to him that striketh thee. He saith, on the cheek, offer also the other.” In this there is pointed out to us the pathway to the highest degree of patience. But He wills besides, that we pay no regard to riches; so that even if a man have but one outer garment, he must not count it a thing unendurable to put off with it also his undergarment, if it so befall. But this is a virtue possible only for a mind entirely turned away from covetousness: for “do not,” He says, “ask back whatever any one taketh away that is thine: but even give to every one that asketh of thee:” a proof indeed of love and willingness to be poor; and the compassionate man must necessarily also be ready to forgive, so as to show friendly acts even to his enemies.
It was probable however that the holy apostles would perchance think these things difficult to put into practice: He therefore Who knoweth all things takes the natural law of self-love as the arbiter of what any one would wish to obtain from another. “Show thyself,” He says, “to others such as thou wishest them to be towards thee.” If thou wouldest have them harsh and unfeeling, fierce and wrathful, revengeful and ill-disposed, show thyself also such: but if on the contrary thou wouldst have them kind and forgiving, do not think it a thing intolerable to be thyself so. And in the case of those so disposed, the law is perchance unnecessary, because God writes upon our hearts the knowledge of His will: “for in those days,” saith the Lord, “I will surely give My laws into their mind, and will write them on their heart.”
Cyril of Alexandria (376-444) in Commentary on St. Luke, Sermon XXIX (From the Syriac. MS.12,154) 113.
Cyril is widely known as a “pillar of faith” for his influence as the patriarch of Alexandria in a time when the church experienced Christological controversies. He would receive the label “doctor of the church” for his prolific writing. We have some of his commentaries on books of the Bible that give us a glimpse into the preaching and teaching of the early church.
When we work through challenging texts in the Gospels at the feet of Cyril, notice his tone and wisdom on how we should relate to money: “But He wills besides, that we pay no regard to riches.” From there he adds: “But this is a virtue possible only for a mind entirely turned away from covetousness.” Keen communicators help people discern sins that can lead us astray.
From there he reminds us that we must be willing to let go of everything and even do friendly acts to enemies. Since Cyril had real enemies, he’s teaching the good and right way from experience. Then, in case we think he’s crazy, he says: “It was probable however that the holy apostles would perchance think these things difficult to put into practice.” What a perfect way to put it!
Then Cyril reveals to us the brilliance of the command of Jesus in how it points to self-love. In plain terms, Jesus tells us to do ourselves a favor. Be kind, generous, and forgiving to everyone because that’s how want like to be treated! In the end, we become merciful and generous like our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus, as we wait for Your coming, help us treat others whether they are friends or enemies with the kindness, generosity, and forgiveness that we want them to extend to us. While this may be difficult to put into practice, help us remember the kindness, generosity, and forgiveness that you have so graciously and mercifully shown to us. Amen.