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Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church
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 say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, your words are contrary to how the world operates. I can follow you only if you grant me the grace to do so. Please open my ears to your word. Open my eyes to your Way and open my heart to your Love.
- Eye for an Eye: This “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” justice was first instituted by Moses to moderate vengeance, “…But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21-23-27). The term the ancient Israelites used for this form of justice was called “talion,” which means “the principle that punishment should be equivalent or identical to the offense committed.” It was considered merciful justice by comparison to other forms of justice at the time that involved killing an entire tribe over the offense committed by one of them.
- Resist No Evil: “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.” Moses served on behalf of God as judge and dispenser of his Law. Jesus is God, the Divine Judge and Giver of the Law. Jesus wants to teach us more than merely how to mitigate evil. He is training his disciples how to defeat it. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen said, “Hate is extremely fertile; it reproduces itself with amazing rapidity. How can all this hatred be stopped when one man is slapping another on the cheek? There is only one way, and that is by turning the other check, which means: ‘I forgive; I refuse to hate you. If I hate you, I will add my quota to the sum total of hate. This I refuse to do. I will kill your hate; I will drive it from the earth. I will love you.’”
- One with God: “If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” Much more painful and difficult than turning the cheek to be slapped again is to give generously to the one who hurts you or asks too much of you. We can comply by considering Jesus’ words less a command and more an invitation. Jesus invites us into his life in the Father and Holy Spirit, the feast we just celebrated yesterday in the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The Catechism (2842) explains, “It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make ‘ours’ the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves ‘forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave’ us.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, you came not only to free us from sin but also to lift us into the very heart of your communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. You call me into your Life and all you ask of me is to follow what you have already accomplished. Come, Holy Spirit, come! Help me follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will bring to mind every person by name who has offended me and ask your help to forgive them because you have forgiven my offenses.
For Further Reflection: Read CCC 2838-2849 and meditate on the Lord’s Prayer asking the Father to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Nan Balfour is an events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic Evangelization Ministry that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter him so as to live in hope as pilgrims in daily life. She is also a mother, writer, and speaker on Catholic topics.
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