In today’s Gospel we hear the famous words of Christ to “turn the other cheek” to those who are evil. The command “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was an Old Testament law intended as part of a justice system. By Jesus’ time, however, the law was no longer being used as it was intended. It is for that reason, therefore, that Jesus elevates the Old Testament law and instead calls us to return evil with love rather than revenge.
This is not an easy thing for us to hear or an easy command for us to follow. Oftentimes we do not return “an eye for an eye” out of revenge but we do so in self defense and out of a sense of self preservation. Our intention is to look out for ourselves. I think it is easy for us to fixate on questioning why Jesus would want us to simply accept evil when we encounter it rather than combating it. He is not telling us that we should endure hateful, abusive, or uncharitable relationships. Rather, I think He is saying that evil does not go away when fought with more evil. I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”. This is what Jesus wants us to understand. We are called to be the light that drives out darkness and the love that drives out hate in our world. Jesus came as the Light of the World and it is our mission to continue to be that light until we are united with Him in His heavenly kingdom.
Christ is the perfect example of turning the other cheek. He faced immense hate and evil in His life but He responded to everything He endured with love. The very reason He endured His Passion and Death was out of love for us. He gave His life for us who have nothing to give Him out of pure love and so that we can be fully united with Him.
Jesus’ purpose in His command is to urge us to be humble and charitable in all situations, not just those in which it is easy to practice humility and charity. If we return evil with love, we will be that much more willing and able to show charity to those who ask a service of us. We will also be more able to give more to those who have nothing.
Today, on the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, may our prayer be that of St. Anthony: “Lord Jesus, bind me to You and to my neighbor with love. May my heart not be turned away from You. May my soul not be deceived nor my talent or mind enticed by allurements of error, so that I may never distance myself from Your love. Thus may I love my neighbor as myself, with strength, wisdom, and gentleness, with Your help, You who are blessed throughout all ages. Amen.”
Dakota lives in Denver, CO with her husband, Ralph, and their two sons, Alfie & Theophilus. She is the Dean of Enrollment Management for Bishop Machebeuf High School where her husband also teaches. You can find Dakota at the zoo or a brewery with her family or with her nose in a book at home. For more of Dakota’s writing check out https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com/
Feature Image Credit: alisol, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/5980-te-ofrezco-mi-corazon-
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