First Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in any one’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98:1-4
O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. The LORD has made known his victory, he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Gospel: Matthew: 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, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.
When I saw the Scripture I was to mediate on today, I had to laugh. I was just discussing this passage with a friend and sharing with her how difficult it can be to differentiate between standing up for yourself and turning the other cheek.
An important fact to remember is that Jesus often spoke in hyperbole to prove a greater point. (Passages about cutting off your right hand and plucking out your eye comes to mind.) During that time, the law of retaliation ruled and no punishment was to exceed the crime. In the New Testament, Jesus challenges us to go beyond that. When we are attacked in anger, we are not to attack back in anger. We are called to forgiveness. And even more, we are called to desire the conversion of our perpetrator.
However, turning the other cheek does not mean we are obligated to endure abuse or stay in a toxic relationship. At one point or another, we have all had to deal with coworkers, friends or family members that are at best dysfunctional and at worse, abusive. So how do we deal with these situations?
Prayer and communion with God, the sacraments and perhaps the guidance of a spiritual director help us to know the best way to act in our situation. Charity calls us to bite our tongue and let our sarcastic remarks die. At times the Holy Spirit will nudge us to show extra kindness to that one person that drives us up the wall. Sometimes charity and justice require us to not stay silent but to stand up for ourselves (or others) and correct the perpetrator. Other times, we have to physically remove ourselves from a situation that will do us or the ones we love harm.
Whatever the action, the key is our motive. Vengeance and retaliation have no room in the Christian heart. Instead our motives must be love, forgiveness and a desire for our “enemy” to turn from his sins. Frankly, fostering charity and true forgiveness in our hearts is sometimes more difficult than getting that second strike on the cheek.
Thankfully, we are not required to do it alone. God’s grace can give us the supernatural ability to love, forgive and to have the wisdom of knowing the best way to deal with these difficult situations.
Are you holding a grudge against someone? Has someone abused you in the past and you can’t seem to let it go? Bring it to the foot of the cross. Ask Our Lord to show you the best way to foster forgiveness and charity in regards to the situation. Pray for others struggling with this too.
Bobbi Rol is a wife, mom and blogger with a teen daughter, three rambunctious little boys, and two babies in heaven. She lives in California with her husband, Brian. You can find out more about her here.