Grace to you!
Reading God’s Word in Scripture is inspiring. As often as I do, I’m filled with joy. It is a “lamp to my feet and light to my path” (Ps 119:105).
In these words, I find the good things that satisfy the heart and keep me on fire for what is good, and praiseworthy and just. However, in the words I also find truths that are challenging and difficult to follow. Like the sword of the spirit, piercing through my heart with its discerning and challenging insights. So is God’s Word (see Heb 4:12).
In Scripture, God points us in the direction of holiness; a path that is not a game of fantasy. Many of the texts are revolutionary.
Take for instance the Gospel of Matthew 5:38-42. It is one of the sermons the Lord delivered on the mount, popularly called the Sermon on the Mount. Hearing those words, we see that the Lord’s ways are different from ours.
The Lord tells us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you” (Mt 5:38-42).
Those words were addressed to his audience at the time. They are equally addressed to us today.
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” was a human way of retribution. It is the so-called lex talionis (meaning, law of retaliation).
For the ethical person of the time, this law was morally just, and was an accepted social practice. In fact, it was expected that when harm is done to another, a commensurate harm should be done against the culprit to bring closure to the harm done to the innocent. Naturally, we feel that way. The desire to pay back in the same coin someone who has hurt us feels natural to us. We feel a sense of need to do so. Many times, the sense of need we feel to retaliate turn into a duty. We feel justified when we do.
In the above text, the Lord shows us a completely different way of responding to harm done against us. For anyone the Lord is calling unto his way of holiness, it has to be different. No spirit of vengeance whatsoever is to be in the heart of the believer. Zero tolerance to vengeance is proposed for the believer. Vengeance has some evil in it. Evil is evil no matter where it is found.
Though we are not to take “turning the other cheek” and “going two miles” at the request of our enemy literarily. It is a metaphor. The Lord uses metaphors to teach heavenly truths. We have to see them as applying patience and charity in dealing with evil people. This was how some Fathers of the Church interpreted the text. We can’t stave off evil by being vengeful. We triumph over evil by showing its contrast.
I know this is not always easy. It isn’t popular either. The grace of God will help us.
Praying for the grace of love and patience and forgiveness. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday Week 11 Ordinary Time B: 1 Kgs 1;21-16; Mt 5:38-42]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.