Of Retaliation and Retribution

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We have another controversial Gospel reading today from Matthew 5. Jesus talks about offering no resistance to the one who is evil; about turning the other cheek. The old law said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But Jesus says, “No more!” So what are we to make of this? Look at the recent past. Hitler was evil. Was the world supposed to stand by and watch as he carried out his evil plans? Or were these words meant only for Christians? Would it have been very “Christian” of Christians not to take up arms and come against this evil? Are these words of Jesus only supposed to be taken on a personal level? What if someone puts a knife to the throat of your spouse or one of your children? Should you do nothing?

The “eye for an eye” mentality was all about retaliation and retribution. Maybe you’ve heard the old saying, “Don’t get mad, get even.” This is what Jesus is telling us to avoid. We must do all that we can to stop evil. But once the evil has been stopped, we cannot exact a pound of flesh just to satisfy our own hunger for “justice.” This is why the Church is so against the death penalty. Stop the evil. Make sure the evildoer can no longer hurt others. But let God be the one to mete out the justice.

Father, we’re so sorry for the times when we still live out the “eye for an eye” mentality. Give us the grace to stop being a people of revenge, and become a people of mercy. Amen.

Today’s Readings

1 comment

  • Carl: February 20, 2023

    Thank you Gus! Your explanation of this passage is one of the best ones I have ever heard!

    I just had a conversation with a fellow parishioner yesterday who does “not like to make waves.” Too many good Christians fail to speak up or take action when confronted with evil. I’m going to add your words today to my “collection” of wisdom!

    God bless!

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