Striking Back

Readings for Monday June 14, 2010

First Reading: 1 Kings 21:1-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 5
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-42

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. (Mt 5:38-42)

I have worked with youth for many years, and as someone who has worked with kids of all ages and in a variety of settings, there is one issue that I always have to deal with; and that is fighting. I have broken up and talked with kids about more fights than I can remember. What is interesting is that in almost all of the cases when I asked one of the kids why they decided to kit or kick the other person back I get the response: "my mom/dad told me that if anyone ever hits me that I need to hit them back." Most of us have probably been told this same exact thing when we were younger, I know that was certainly the case for me. And who can really blame parents for doing this? At the core of these instructions, is a good intention; parents do not want anyone hurting their children, and they realize that they cannot always be around to protect them, so they want them to retaliate and protect themselves. But while this may be a good intention, the intention does not make up for a wrong action.

It seems as though many people live by the old law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Many people who are wronged want to wrong that person (or someone else back). It is our deep desire for justice that drives us to act this way, and to even instruct our children to act this way. But the question that we must all ask ourselves is are we really seeking justice, or is it revenge? Jesus had very clear instructions about what we should do if someone strikes us or does us wrong, and the answer is not to retaliate and seek revenge. When someone strikes us on one cheek, we are to offer the other. To most people this would seem like the person is being soft, and not strong, but it is the person who can control their anger and their fists that are really the strongest. Fighting back is easy, anyone can do it, it takes a courage and a strong will to love the person instead of striking them back.

Justice is an important virtue, and we are all deserving of justice; but we must remember that this virtue is secondary to the most important virtue of all ... love. Justice can only be accomplished through the path of love. If it is placed first, then it is not justice we are seeking, but rather vengeance.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and for all that you give to us. Lord, help us to love as we are called to. Help us to seek your way and to follow you know matter how hard. Lord, send us your spirit, so that we can have the courage to follow you no matter what may come our way. Help us to persevere in this life and to lead others to your love and truth. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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