Jesus calls men to endure injustice and be generous. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by building the Virtue of Meekness so he can “turn the other cheek” and by growing in the Virtue of Generosity so he can always give to those who are in need.
11th Week in Ordinary Time – Monday – Mt 5:38-42
Continuing the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to the Old Covenant law of, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Ex 21:24), which did not call for vengeance but sought to limit legal retribution to equal action; instead, Jesus commands that His disciples must “turn the other cheek.” Like the other examples from the Old Covenant in Matthew 5 that sought to control outward acts to keep social peace (e.g. The 10 Commandments’ prohibitions for murder, adultery), Jesus calls His disciples to go beyond simply controlling their outward behaviors to a new standard of inner holiness.
Shockingly, Jesus commands His disciples to, “offer no resistance to one who is evil”, using particularly humiliating and extreme examples to make His point. To receive a strike on the right cheek, the attacker used a backhand slap with the typically dominant right hand, considered particularly insulting, or an open hand slap with the left hand, highly insulting, for the left hand was the “bathroom” hand. But Jesus says, to “turn the other cheek.”
To evangelize one’s enemies and to grow in holiness, Jesus commands additional extreme acts of love in the face of persecution. Using a legal example, if a man sued another man to legally take his tunic, a man’s inner garment, Jesus commands men to willingly give one’s adversary not only his tunic but his cloak, his outer garment. This is shocking for it overturns Jewish law which forbid taking a man’s cloak because he would be naked and cold (Ex 22:25-27). By Roman law, the hated occupying Roman soldiers could legally make a Jew carry their equipment for up to one mile; it was particularly humiliating to have to carry an enemy’s tools of war. Jesus’ direction, to “Go the extra mile”, requires His disciples to be willing to go far beyond legal requirements, humbly sacrificing themselves in an effort to convert the hearts of those who persecute them.
Be awed by Jesus Christ
By His Authority as the Divine King and the perfection of Charity, Jesus commands His followers to new standards of love, which overturn thousand-year-old rules given by the great Prophet Moses but which also overturn most men’s standards for “justice” today. Be awed by Jesus, as He rejects anger and retaliation against some forms of injustice, commanding men to pursue Meekness (a part of Temperance); He will demonstrate the perfection of Meekness during the abominable attacks against Him at the Passion.
Be meek and “turn the other cheek”
Realize: Men’s natural urge to retaliate and do violence against their enemies is being amplified in the smash-mouth modern culture which endorses violent activism: violent protests, destroying property, physical violence, verbal abuse, and the destruction of a person’s reputation and livelihood.
Believe: Reflect upon The 5th Commandment and the call to Safeguard Peace (CCC 2302-2306).
Pray: Jesus, Perfection of Meekness, help me build the Virtue of Meekness (a part of Temperance) so I can avoid unrighteous anger and always strive to calmly and heroically obey Your commandment to “turn the other cheek.”
Generously give to those who are in need
Realize: Going beyond “turning the other cheek” against evil attacks, Jesus calls on His disciples to give to those who beg or seek to borrow.
Believe: Reflect upon Christ’s Love of the Poor (CCC 2443-2449).
Pray: Jesus, Perfection of Charity, help me build the Virtue of Generosity (a part of Justice) so my heart becomes full of empathy for those who are suffering, and I respond by generously giving my time, talent, and treasure to those in need.