A Challenging Task
“… offer no resistance to one who is evil.”
This is a hard teaching, or perhaps we should say it is a difficult teaching, a challenging teaching. When we read all of chapter 5 we realize that this is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon comes near the beginning of Jesus’ preaching. It develops in a prepared way—rather than spontaneously—and it contains the core message of Christianity.
We should not be concerned about the origin of each of these teachings or whether they were given as one whole sermon or collected later by Matthew. Instead let us set ourselves to listen attentively. This Gospel passage is an explanation of the overall theme of love. Jesus is dismantling the common, strong inclination to seek retaliation, to exact revenge. So often we follow this lower instinct that requires nothing of our human nature—simply anger, brute force, animal cunning, “inner evil.” Although we might feel strong, crafty, in control, even justified, when we retaliate we are simply acting out of animal instinct.
Jesus wants us to stand before him, to stand also in our own presence, to reflect on what has angered us—usually it is something small: an insult, a slap, a demand. Why lower ourselves to a reaction similar to the insult? If we are the better person, shouldn’t our reaction be nobler? If someone wants something that is yours, give it rather than fall into a battle over it. If someone demands a service, give it willingly and even exceed the demand; give more. At the end Jesus suggests a way to ready ourselves for these difficult, demanding moments. He says, give to one who asks, do not deny one who wants to borrow. If we follow his advice our hearts will be big enough and our spirits strong enough to meet insult, injustice, and injury more gently, with nobility, with love as Jesus himself, the Son of God, met the great personal offense of his passion.
Jesus, my God and my example, you constantly met with insult, antagonism, and pressure as you went about preaching divine love and forgiveness. Your whole mission was centered on us—on our salvation. Make my heart similar to yours, meek and humble, that what I desire for every other person will be similar to what you desire—peace in this life and eternal happiness in the next. Amen.
Do not say no to kindness.
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 186–187). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.