Liturgic day: Monday 11th in Ordinary Time
Gospel text (Mt 5:38-42):
Jesus said to his disciples, "You have heard that it was said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give when asked and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you".
"I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil"
Today, Jesus teaches us that forgiveness can overcome hate. Talion's law meant some progress, as it limited the wish to retaliate down to a fair proportion: do unto others as you would have them to, unto you; otherwise, it would be unfairness; this is what the aphorism "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" actually means. It was, however, a limited progress, as Jesus Christ emphasizes in the Gospel the need that love overcomes revenge; this is how He expressed it when, on his Cross, He interceded for his executioners: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34).
Nevertheless, truth should always accompany forgiveness. We do not just forgive because we feel helpless or gravely embarrassed. Quite often, the expression “to turn the other cheek” is misinterpreted as waiving our legitimate rights. Certainly, nothing of the sort. To turn the other cheek means to denounce and interpellate, with a peaceful but categorical gesture, whoever has done the injustice committed; it is like saying: "You slapped me on the cheek, now what, you want to slap me on the other too? do you really think you are behaving rightly?". Jesus replied serenely to the high priest's rude servant: "If I said something wrong testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" (Jn 18:23).
We can, therefore, see what our Christian behaviour must be: not to retaliate, but to stay firm; to be open to forgiveness but clearly say things. It is certainly not an easy task to accomplish, but it is the only way to put a stop to violence and show the world the Divine Grace it is lacking of, so often. St. Basil advises us: "Believe me and you will forget the offences and insults you get from your fellow man. You will see how differently you will be named; he will be called angry and violent while you will be cited as meek and peaceful. One day, he will repent of his violence, but you will never regret your meekness".
Comment: Fr. Joaquim MESEGUER García (Sant Quirze del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain) www.evengeli.net