February 19, 2023
How are we to understand that? No one resists evil more than Jesus.
- Right to defend others and legitimate self-defense.
- Revenge and escalating violence.
- Jesus gives the example of resisting evil most effectively.
- He is calling us to divine perfection.
- This is only possible by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
“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,” do not resist one who is evil. How does that sound? How are we supposed to understand that passage? And this I think is a good example of the danger of isolating one passage in scripture and not seeing scripture in its whole, because no one resists evil more than Jesus. No one resists evil more courageously, more intelligently and more effectively than Jesus. So, there’s misunderstandings that we want to clear away. One is that the Church teaches that we have a right to self-defense. I’ll read you what the Catechism says, love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. So, we’re 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. So, some suggest that there’s some key points there when it says someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder, even if he is forced. That is, because there’s an aggressor it says, who is attacking. And St. Thomas Aquinas explains this point. He says, If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful, more than the violence necessary to protect himself. Whereas if he repels force with moderation, that is a force which is proportionate to what is needed, his defense will be lawful. Nor is it necessary for salvation, that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man. That is if the proportionate act of self-defense involves taking the others life that is not against one’s salvation. And St. Thomas explains, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s, that is our first responsibility, is for our own life. So, there is a right to self-defense. And even more so there’s responsibility to defend others. The Catechism says legitimate defense cannot only be a right, but a grave duty for those who are responsible for the lives of others. And think, for instance, of parents and law enforcement and the military, and others. The defense of the common good requires this again, the Catechism requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. So, the goal is not here, revenge, but it’s rendering an unjust aggressor, someone who is attacking can justly be rendered unable to cause harm. So, the intent is not to cause evil or to cause hurt, but it’s surrendering them incapable of causing harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community, entrusted to their responsibility. So, the right to self-defense and the right and a duty to defend others who are attacked unjustly. So, Jesus, is not Jesus is denying that, what He is speaking of here is of the act of revenge? You have heard that it was said An eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth. And this passage from the Old Testament was already an important step forward, because oftentimes in revenge, people do worse to the other person, than the damage the first person caused. And so, an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth is trying to limit the retaliation which is already a step forward because there’s always this danger of escalation, which happens so often, not just between persons, but even like between countries, one act can lead to a worst act and then those retaliated by even worse act, just until it goes completely out of control. I mean, you see that even just when kids are fighting, one hits and then the other hits back harder, and then you saw that escalation happens very fast and very often. So, this is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is limiting that. Because the desire for revenge, who puts in us the desire for revenge? Satan, that comes from satan, the desire for revenge, God gives a desire for justice, but satan gives a desire for revenge. And the results of revenge are terrible, causing so much damage, physical damage, but even much more dangerously, damage to souls. And the only winner is satan, satan who delights in, you may see it like games for one person to pretend to, like, say two people are sitting next to each other, and someone sneaks up behind them, and taps one on the shoulder. So, the person thinks the person sitting next to them did it, and so that they begin to fight. And so satan is like that, trying to pit us against each other, so, he’s the only winner. And so, Scripture says, the letter Roman says, we’re quoting the Old Testament, but as “vengeance is Mine, says the Lord”. So, there will be justice, there will be vengeance, but it’s the Lord who is the only one who can do that adequately. So, He says, “vengeance is mine,” it’s not for us. It’s not for us to try to exact revenge, vengeance belongs to the Lord, He says, Vengeance is mine. So, He says, that He is the one to enact vengeance, and He says, I will repay, VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY, so it belongs to Him, and He will carry it out. And even, for instance, in the revelations of Divine Mercy that the Lord gave to St. Faustina, He speaks very clearly of His justice, and that those who do not come to His Mercy will have to face everyone who does not will have to face His justice. Only God has the necessary power, no one can escape His justice, no, no powers can escape His justice. And also, He has all the knowledge because our knowledge of a situation is always very imperfect. God has the full knowledge of what was involved in the gravity and of the guilt involved, and He has the opportunity, no one can escape His vengeance. He has all eternity to enact vengeance, no one can escape that. To think that we did the only opportunity for vengeance, and for justice on this earth is completely false. God has all eternity for that. And also, God has the just intention. God is acting justly. And so, “Vengeance is Mine,” says the Lord. And so, Jesus gives us then an example. And He gives the example in His own life. And again, no one is more, no one resist evil more than Jesus. And the one He resists above all, then, of course, is satan. Jesus is coming and basically is coming onto the battlefield, when He comes onto this earth is coming to the battlefield, in which He realized is that the real enemy, the hidden enemy is satan. And Jesus dedicated His whole life to destroying the power of satan and liberating souls from satan. And so, Jesus is so focused and so dedicated to His mission, that He accepts certain offenses, even to sacrifice His own life in order to destroy the power of evil. So, Jesus is not surrendering to the power of evil, Jesus is offering His life to destroy the power of evil. And that’s why He rises, victorious, eternally victorious, forever victorious. And so, the gospel He’s given us is about offenses against oneself. In the examples He gives, as He said, slapped on the cheek or someone sue’s to take your coat or forces you to go a mile, and then He says, “Give to the one who asked of you and do not turn your back on the one who wants to borrow.” So, He is calling us to patients, to generosity, to mercy, to build up the kingdom, to overthrow the power of satan. So, these acts are a very different type, and we’re not used to thinking of that as a way of destroying evil. But Jesus, that’s the example that is given to build up this kingdom, to strengthen His kingdom, and to destroy the power of evil. There’s a lot of sacrifice that is necessary. A lot of patience, a lot of generosity, a lot of mercy. That’s what helps rescue souls from the power of Satan. And so that’s why Jesus helps us understand what is the goal of our life? If the goal of our life is just comfort, or wealth, those are things that can easily be taken away by an enemy. But if the goal of our life is union with God, and triumphing reigning with him forever in His kingdom, then those attacks of the enemy when we’re faithful, when we experienced the cross in our own lives, and when we experience injustice, in our own lives, the enemy cannot take away our triumph. Those attacks, and those injustices only serve to increase our union with God, if we are faithful. The very sacrifice increases, helps us, that sacrifice helps us get closer to our goal of union with God. So, this is not though, I can’t pretend that this is an easy path. Jesus is calling us to something that is hard. Because Jesus says if you do this, even the pagans, even a tax collectors do that. He says, oftentimes, our attitude is a very human attitude. But Jesus is calling you to something, not just human, He wants you to be a child of God, that is to share God’s joy, to share God’s joy for all eternity, to share God’s glory, for all eternity. And that’s the difficulty, that we’re poor little human sinners. But we’re being called to share God’s own life, to share God’s own glory. And Jesus has showing us what that looks like, concretely on this earth. So, it is a very difficult path. But even first of all, just to recognize that that’s what we’re called to, is already a step in the right direction, that this is, that’s the goal, and even recognizing our own failures, that humility, already helps us to put us on the right path. So just by recognizing this is what I’m called to. And I’m still a long way off, that humility, and that truthfulness is already a very big step in the right direction. So that God is calling us to a very demanding formation, I think, like the military, who, when they have special forces, they give them a very demanding formation. God is calling us to a very demanding formation. But it’s because of the greatness of our call. Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect, a very demanding call. But the good thing is, He knows our struggles, and He has all mercy to help us, when we’re trying to do the right thing but struggling, His mercy is there, and He gives us His Holy Spirit. Because this is something that we cannot do by ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit, the grace of the Holy Spirit in us can permit us to do this. It’s not just by trying harder, that we can do this. We need to try hard but that’s not enough. It’s only the grace of the Holy Spirit. And the mysterious thing is that this demanding gospel, which seems so far out, is already in your heart. It’s already in the depths of your heart, even though there’s a lot in us which always wants to, you know, respond with revenge and anger when we’re attacked or when someone where love is attacked. But this path that Jesus is talking about, is already in your heart. The Holy Spirit was already placed it there by His sanctifying grace. But we also need to cooperate. Sometimes, it’s sometimes there’s little acts we can do. Sometimes the acts are big and heroic. But we can start maybe with the little ones, try to make the little acts that we can, of forgiveness, of mercy. And so, you can even do that right now in this Mass, thinking of someone that you could forgive, that the Lord is calling you to forgive. They might be sitting next to you, but someone that you need to forgive. Ask the Holy Spirit, ask the Holy Spirit, who He’s asking you to forgive, in this Mass, that you may be children of your heavenly Father. This is hard. But it’s so powerful. What is Jesus saying? That you may become children of your heavenly Father? It’s so hard. But it’s also so powerful to transform us from humans who are easily manipulated and become the pawns of satan, because that’s so often when people are trying to get revenge, they’re just playing into the whole strategy of satan. They think they’re getting justice, but they’re actually working for the evil one. But this act of that what Jesus is talking about, of sacrifice, is so hard, but it transforms us. It opens the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, so that we can be soldiers for His Kingdom, fighting evil by the power of His cross, for the triumph of His mercy. Amen.
KEYWORDS / PHRASES:
An eye for an eye, A tooth for a tooth