”My righteousness is just as good as Jesus' righteousness...because it is Jesus' righteousness.” ~ E.W. Kenyon
In today’s 1st Reading (2 Corinthians 6:1-10), we find Saint Paul essentially explaining himself, going into gory detail about what he has endured in order to bring the Gospel message to the people of Corinth. Beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned...these are but a few of the trials and tribulations he faced. But powered by the Holy Spirit, he goes on to speak of unfeigned love, knowledge, patience and kindness as but a few of his “weapons of righteousness,” the perfect lead-in to today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:38-42), a teaching from Jesus which would indeed contain a radical message for its time. It may in fact be even more radical in the year 2021.
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” Jesus proclaims. “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.” He goes on to say “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.”
Jesus today is inviting us to embark upon and forge a peaceful existence, one rooted in docility and self-control, that seemingly forgotten virtue and fruit of the Holy Spirit https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/The-Waning-Presence-of-Self-Control. To pursue harmony and tranquility with our neighbor, not discord, acrimony, and vengeance.
In various ways, we find ourselves constantly being tested, pushed to the brink. Why in the world should we react as Jesus instructs us? For that matter, how do we respond in such a way? On this the birthday of the brilliant and perpetually quotable G.K. Chesterton, I can’t help but recall one of his more famous quips wherein he says “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”
The short answer is, because God doesn’t operate that way. When God sent His Son into the world to show us the way, the truth, and the light, He didn’t operate that way. We too are called, each one of us, to enter into the divine life. Yet we know it is an extremely difficult task, one that we cannot achieve be merely willing it or by way of earnest and diligent practice. As Bishop Barron points out on the topic of living one’s enemies, “This is why love is referred to as a theological virtue. It is the sheerest participation in the divine life, and it can only come from God.”
We can of course begin by making time each day to pray for our enemies, perhaps even choosing a prolific member of the Communion of Saints to be your intercessor before the Throne of God; for me, it’s Saint Joseph for this particular daily intention. Go to daily mass to pray for them three days in a row. One day even. Offer up Holy Communion for them frequently. And always remember one very important fact: We are called to wage battle against the devil...not other people, all of whom are God’s beloved children.
“What is perfection in love?” Saint Augustine once asked. “Loving your enemies in such a way,” he concluded, “that you would desire to make them your brothers.” We too are armed with the weapons of righteousness. We have the perfect role model. He expects nothing less from us than to follow Him, thus entering deeply into the divine life, a life rooted in the New Commandment:
“...love one another as I have loved you.” ~ John 13:34