By Fr. Roy Cimagala
“IF one strikes thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other: and if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two.” (Mt 5,39-41)
Scary words, no doubt. They surely run counter to what we may consider as common sense. But that is what Christ told his disciples and is also telling us now and always. To top it all, he also said: “Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.” (Mt 5,44) Oh no! We mostly likely would react.
But Christ was also quick to reassure his disciples, and us, that if we manage—with God’s grace, of course—to follow by this divine advice, we would truly be the children of God “who makes his sun to rise upon the good and bad, and rains upon the just and the unjust.” (Mt 5,45)
And he concluded this particular episode by telling his disciples: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Mt 5,48) somehow telling us that abiding by this teaching is the mark of Christian perfection.
This is obviously a very intriguing part of our Christian faith. Not only should we love our enemies, as Christ taught us, but we also need to drown evil with an abundance of good. This was specifically articulated by St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans where he said:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Rom 12,17-20)
We have to try our best to erase whatever disbelief, doubt or skepticism we can have as we consider this teaching, since most likely, our first and spontaneous reaction to it would precisely be those conditions. We can ask, even if done only interiorly, “Is Christ really serious about this? Can this thing that Christ and St. Paul are telling us, possible, doable?”
When these reactions come to us, it is time to remind ourselves that we just have to follow our faith that definitely contains a lot of mysteries and things supernatural that we are not expected to understand fully. Like Our Lady and all the saints, we should just believe and do what we are told because it is Christ who said so, and because it is the Church that teaches us so.
That’s what faith is all about. By believing first, then we can start to understand things that are hard to explain in human terms. We should not waste time trying to understand everything at once or at the beginning. Let’s be game enough to go through some kind of adventure that, no matter how the outcome would be, we know that God is in control of everything.
In the meantime, guided by our faith, let’s begin to develop the appropriate attitudes, practices, habits and virtues. We have to learn the intricacies of charity, like being patient, magnanimous, compassionate and understanding, merciful, always friendly with everyone even if not everyone is friendly with us. We should be willing to suffer for the others and to bear their burdens.