February 23, 2020
Fr. John Mary breaks down the truth and message of the biblical quote, “…an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…” and how Jesus teaches us to be responsible and charitable to ourselves by destroying the power of the evil one and becoming eternally and truly victorious.
- The Catechism tell us that love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. It is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life.
- “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a passage from the Old Testament to reflect on limiting the act of revenge. Revenge is an escalator to sin and only Satan wins.
- Satan plays person against person to cause anger, hatred and sin to separate us from God and lead us to hell.
- “Justice is mine says the Lord.” And only God has the power and the knowledge and the pure intention to give true justice.
- Jesus shows us the path of how to be eternally and truly victorious over the power of Satan. Our goal is to be union with God and to help bring about the triumph of His kingdom.
- With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can respond with our daily little opportunities to respond with a desire for revenge OR with forgiveness and mercy.
“You have heard that it was said “An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth.” So that passage from the Old Testament might sound kind of drastic to us, but that was an attempt to limit revenge, because oftentimes, revenge is an escalation. The only winner of revenge is usually Satan. This doesn’t mean that we can’t defend ourselves, family or country against evil when lives are at stake. The Catechism says, “legitimate defense can be not only a right, but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.”
When Jesus Himself was offended, when He was robbed on the cross, when He was treated so brutally, He responded with generosity, with sacrifice, with forgiveness, with love. He was showing us how to resist evil.
“You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth. But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil.” When I was reading this gospel, my first reaction was, I don’t want to talk about that. This, you know, turn the other cheek stuff is not very popular. I thought, Lord, they don’t want to hear that. I don’t want to talk about it. And this is even worse. Listen, when he says do not resist one who is evil, sometimes it’s translated, do not resist the evil or the evildoer. But that doesn’t sound very good, does it? It’s very confusing, do not resist. But I think actually what the Lord is talking about, far from just giving up, He is actually talking about we could say, like, an advanced form of martial arts, martial arts in an eternal sense. There’s a misunderstanding, I think this is a good example, if we isolate one passage away from its situation, we can misunderstand it. And so a couple of misunderstandings. One is does that mean that it’s wrong, we don’t have a right to self defense? And so I read what the Catechism says, “Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality,” we are called to love ourselves. “Therefore, it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder, even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.” A quote Saint Thomas Aquinas said, “If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful and immoral. Whereas if he repels force with moderation’” and moderation means what is necessary, “his defense will be moral. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man,” if it’s necessary, even to the point of killing the other man to defend his own life. Since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s, our first responsibility and charity is to ourselves. And, then, what about responsibility to defending others. The Catechism says, “legitimate defense can be not only a right, but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.” Like for instance, parents for their children, law enforcement or military. “The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community and trusted to their responsibility.” So the right to legitimate self-defense or the right and duty to defend others, Jesus is not denying that right. But He is calling to something very demanding here. And so first of all, what is He talking about? He gives examples of what He’s talking about. He says, “When someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one as well.” So that’s not only a physical injury, but it’s also an insult. “If someone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, handover your cloak as well” So trying to take something that is yours. “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles,” and apparently the Roman soldiers had the right to press someone into service for one mile. He is talking about the situations in which we are being offended, or humiliated, or a service is being imposed, something has been taken from us. What He is talking about is revenge, the tendency to anger and revenge. And where He says, “You have heard that it was said An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth.” So that passage from the Old Testament was already that might sound kind of drastic to us, but that was an attempt to limit revenge, because oftentimes, revenge is an escalation. I mean, let’s just take a simple example of two little kids, two siblings. So the one of them yawns. The other thought that the yawn was too loud. And so he nudges the first one, the other nudges back a little bit harder, so the other one shoves him a little bit, the other one shoves him more, then the other one hits him, then the other one kicks him. And then within a minute, what started out as the yarn becomes a fight. So revenge often escalates. What started out as a yawn becomes a fight, and both of them thought they were completely justified. They were the ones who are wrong. That’s kind of funny when it’s little kids, but that happens between persons, between countries, terrible escalation, and terrible results with a lot of damage. And the only winner usually of revenge, the only winner is satan, because he’s the one, you can see, think of that example to kids, because that’s a simple example, but a lot of times, it plays out among countries, and so forth, it can result in wars. What is happening, it’s satan, who is playing us against each other, not only to hurt each other, but not just hurt physically, but especially what he wants to do is cause anger, cause hatred, and to cause us to sin causes the set be separated from God, and lead us to hell. And so it’s satan, who is behind all this, he is the true enemy. And so, what about justice? And as a scripture says, very clearly, “Justice is mine says the Lord.” Justice is mine says the Lord. And even for instance, in the book of Saint Faustina, but full of revelations of Divine Mercy, but it also speaks often of justice, and punishment, and rewarding, the good, or the evil. And Jesus says, before this, I’m offering you mercy, but after that comes the Day of Judgment. Only God has the power and the knowledge, and also the pure intention to give true justice. And he has all eternity, to give His justice. And so God is the one who will bring justice. So what is Jesus talking about here? Jesus is not just talking about it of course, He gives the example. So I started out with that passage, which is surprising, do not resist the evil one. No one has resisted the evil one, more than Jesus. No one has completely resisted the evil one, as Jesus said but Jesus knows who the true evil one is, satan. And so Jesus has dedicated His whole mission to destroying the power of the evil one. And so when Jesus himself was offended, when He was robbed on the cross, when He was treated so brutally, by responding with generosity, with sacrifice, with forgiveness, with love, as I said, this is Jesus is showing us advanced martial art against satan. Because Jesus could have easily wiped out the people who are attacking Him. But Jesus knew that wouldn’t get to the heart of the battle, the real enemy, the one who was behind everything, which is satan. Jesus is showing us this path of destroying the power of the evil one, instead of letting him create this escalation of hatred in which Satan is the victor. Jesus shows us this very demanding path, but a path which destroys his power. And so Jesus is showing us the path of how to be eternally and truly victorious. Because if the goal of our life is just earthly comfort, or fame or wealth, the enemy can easily rob us of that. But what is the goal of our life? What is the goal of your life? If we realize the truth that you are created for union with God and for helping bring about the triumph of His kingdom, then things are very different. And then those injuries, those insults, those offenses, which are very difficult become opportunities for a victory. So this is an important question because all of us have to deal with this, all of us face all sorts of offenses. Sometimes the person probably didn’t even intend to be an offense, sometimes they did. What are we going to do with this? And so this is a very important lesson, what can we do with this. And so Jesus is trying to show us how, instead of letting that offense be a victory of satan in our life, dragging us, like for satan to establish his dominion of hatred in our souls, how that can be on the contrary, a victory for us, and for the Lord’s Kingdom. But this is very demanding. And you know that the military puts its special forces through especially demanding formation. And this is a very demanding formation, but the Lord is calling us to, we can only do it with the Holy Spirit’s help, not by ourselves, but we need His help. But one thing we can do that can help us is to try it, at least in little things, the little opportunities which present themselves every day. The little opportunities in which we can respond with a desire for revenge, or with forgiveness, and mercy. And so right now, during this Mass, there’s probably things that are bothering us right now, things in which we felt offended and treated unjustly, in many different ways. And so right now, this Mass is an opportunity to, instead of letting that be a victory of satan in our soul, by the Holy Spirit making that an offering, which becomes a sharing in the victory of Jesus. “be perfect, just as your Father is perfect.” And so the Lord is, as I said, calling us to advanced martial arts and advanced because this is not easy, but it is truly a battle. And so, He’s not calling us to just give in to the evil one. But He’s teaching us how to be most effective against the one who is the source of all evil fighting by the cross of Jesus Christ, fighting to bring about the triumph of mercy so that we ourselves can share that triumph of God’s mercy.