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».
Daily Quote from the early church fathers:
You tear yourself apart by hating, by an anonymous early author from the Greek church
"We have seen how murder is born from anger and adultery from desire. In the same way, the hatred of an enemy is destroyed by the love of friendship. Suppose you have viewed a man as an enemy, yet after a while he has been swayed by your benevolence. You will then love him as a friend. I think that Christ ordered these things not so much for our enemies as for us: not because enemies are fit to be loved by others but because we are not fit to hate anyone. For hatred is the prodigy of dark places. Wherever it resides, it sullies the beauty of sound sense. Therefore not only does Christ order us to love our enemies for the sake of cherishing them but also for the sake of driving away from ourselves what is bad for us. The Mosaic law does not speak about physically hurting your enemy but about hating your enemy. But if you merely hate him, you have hurt yourself more in the spirit than you have hurt him in the flesh. Perhaps you don’t harm him at all by hating him. But you surely tear yourself apart. If then you are benevolent to an enemy, you have rather spared yourself than him. And if you do him a kindness, you benefit yourself more than him." (excerpt from INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 13, The Greek Fathers)
«I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil»
Fr. Joaquim MESEGUER García
(Sant Quirze del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain)
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».