Chapter 5 of Matthew’s gospel is very challenging. Most of us know – or at least know of – the Beatitudes in which Jesus tells of the happiness (blessedness) of those who practice and/or endure justice and meekness and long-suffering, etc.(MT 5:38-42). The chapter doesn’t stop there, however. As Jesus lays out a new way of living – the fulfillment and next step in the evolution of the Mosaic Law, perhaps, he speaks of letting our light shine for the good of the world and then there is that most uncomfortable teaching that goes beyond anything his listeners could have expected. (MT 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.”
Interestingly, what caught my eye this morning when I first opened the USCCB (Catholic bishops) website was the topic of capital punishment. It is one of the tenets of Catholicism that I applaud wholeheartedly. This was the explanatory paragraph that I read:
The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. (Pope Saint John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 1995)
As we watch the frequent news reports of horrific violence in our country and around the world, these are hard sayings to accept. Reacting to violence with violence, however, is never a solution. I feel led today to examine my own heart, seeking to root out any vestiges of violence – bursts of anger and even thoughts of “tit-for-tat” – that might add to the negative energy in the world. Offering what I find as an antidote to my own failures in conscious loving might become my strength when the next challenge to my ego comes along. I’m reminded of Holly Near’s song lyrics from long ago that asked, “Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone, splashing, breaking, dispersing in air, weaker than the stone by far but be aware that, as time goes by, the rock will wear away.”
May it be so in us!