Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Memorial)
Offer no resistance to one who is evil. (Matthew 5:39)
We’ve all heard expressions like “What goes around comes around” and “The punishment should fit the crime.” But compare these statements to today’s Gospel reading, and they end up sounding like the ancient law of retribution: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. They imply that justice is served when wrongdoers get back what they dished out.
When thought of in the abstract, this sounds completely reasonable, doesn’t it? It’s nothing personal; you’re just trying to be fair and maintain order.
But most wrongdoing is personal. It’s no longer just an “event” out there. You are on the receiving end of an injustice, and you are hurt and frustrated. Especially if you have suffered a serious offense, it can be difficult to remain impartial and unemotional. Something in you wants to get even. And so the cycle of vengeance continues—a cycle that we see not only on the world stage but in family life as well.
What would it take for us to break this cycle? Although Jesus’ words about not resisting evil are an exaggeration, they do prompt us to ask, “How far am I willing to go?” Jesus wants the mark of his people to be mercy. He wants us to try to put an end to hatred, vengeance, and enmity—simply by making changes in our own hearts.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should become doormats and let people take advantage of us. Neither does it mean that we don’t need judges and law enforcement officers to do their jobs. But at the end of the day, a social or political system can’t bring the kind of healing that a person can. As Pope Francis constantly reminds us, we need to encounter one another in order to experience the power of God’s mercy and love.
What simple step can you take to help break the cycle of hurt and retaliation? Maybe just a small act of generosity or a simple “I forgive you” is all you need—even if you don’t feel all that merciful at the time. It may not be easy, but it has the potential to open up someone else’s heart to God’s grace and forgiveness.
“Jesus, help me to be as merciful toward people as you have been with me.”
1 Kings 21:1-16