DAILY GOSPEL COMMENTARY: “WHEN SOMEONE STRIKES YOU ON YOUR RIGHT CHEEK” (Mt 5:38–42 ).
Gospel of Monday, 11th week of Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “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. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Matthew (with permission)
- Among the Semites, from whom the Israelites stemmed, the law of vengeance ruled.
- It led to interminable strife, and countless crimes.
- In the early centuries of the chosen people, the law of retaliation was recognized as an ethical advance, socially and legally: no punishment could exceed the crime, and any punitive retaliation was outlawed.
- In this way, the honour of the clans and families was satisfied, and endless feuds avoided.
- As far as New Testament morality is concerned, Jesus establishes a definitive advance: a sense of forgiveness and absence of pride play an essential role.
- Every legal framework for combating evil in the world, every reasonable defence of personal rights, should be based on this morality.
- The three last verses refer to mutual charity among the children of the Kingdom, a charity which presupposes and deeply imbues justice.
VIDEO COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S GOSPEL
TOPIC: CAN YOU “TURN THE OTHER CHEEK” ON THOSE WHO OFFEND YOU?
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus continues to explain some of the 600 plus commands in the Mosaic Law to emphasize His point that all these can be summarized into just two laws: love God and love neighbor. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth connotes revenge to punish one who offends you. But Jesus calls us to respond differently.
TOPIC 2: If someone hits you on the right cheek, do you offer the left one?
We are the fruits of our life-long experiences. When I was a young boy up to my teens, I was, at some point, a “Batang Kalye” or child of the streets. The rule we followed in my group was similar to the saying “justice delayed is justice denied.” I was very vocal and fearless. If I saw injustice, I would be the first one to try to correct it. For example, if I saw someone being bullied or victimized, I would immediately come to the rescue and dress down the victimizer. You guessed it, this would lead to fights.
Jesus started his Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. He continues to announce his new Law of Love in today’s gospel. Jesus quotes Ancient Law saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But the complete text was “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Exoduc 21”23-25). But this belief destroys one’s relationship with people and with God and Jesus wanted to change this.
One of the greatest influences of my life was my father-in-law. He was a humble and gentle person. One of his principles was: “Never mind if you are the oppressed party but never be the oppressor.” I couldn’t understand it then but in time, as I became more immersed in spiritual renewal, I learned to embrace it. Most of the time though. I learned to temper my aggressive and retaliatory ways. I learned to see Jesus in every person I meet.
Jesus affirms it in today’s gospel. “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. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” (Matthew 5:40-42)
Hard teachings, right? But Jesus set a good example. Recall in John 18:22-23, “one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’” He did not spit at, shout at, hurl invectives or fight with his tormentors but he still gave his piece. Jesus stood his ground and was not passive or felt defeated.
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