Deacon Tom Writes on….
“The Call to Holiness”
Jesus takes the contemporary wisdom of his time and turns it upside down. The ancient patterns of behavior of seeking revenge, the old “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” order of the day mentality needs to give way to a new mindset, a new way of resolving differences. So Jesus introduces his followers to some new and innovative ways to bring about justice saying, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil” and “turn the other cheek.”
Jesus’ radical new prescription to eradicate the plagues of hatred and discrimination is to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Of course, this is much easier said than done. There is a story told about the days following the North’s victory over the South in America’s Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln was being pressured to completely destroy the Confederacy, to decimate the enemies of the Union once and for all. Lincoln’s answer was classic. He responded to those calling for the annihilation of the South with these reconciling words saying effectively: “Don’t I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Lincoln understood very well that violence only begets more violence. The cycle never ends. How could it in the absence of a new mindset, a new vision that lifts the victim and the vanquished to a higher level of social and moral conscientiousness? This attitude perhaps helped fashion America’s treatment of our enemies in the twentieth century when, after the Second World War, the Marshall Plan sent massive humanitarian aid to Europe in order to lay the foundation for a world able to reconcile differences through mutual respect and an orderly process of dialogue rather than mutual destruction.
Embracing a new way of responding to problems that give rise to the endless cycle of violence that ravages peoples, cultures, and societies is a critical component of our faith. Through the Prophet Moses, the Lord told his people to “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” We are called to be holy as God is holy. Therefore violence and revenge are not options. There is no better advocate for this than Christ who became a victim for us all and who suffered torture and death at the hands of violent people in order to show us the way of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Let us take Christ’s words to heart and strive to put them into practice by “turning the other cheek” when others choose the way of violence and also by praying for those who do so.
I would like to recommend the book, Living Justice, by Thomas Massaro, S.J. as a great Lenten read on Catholic Social Teaching. Watching the News will never be the same!
Enjoy the day!