By Fr. Serg Kabamalan, CJM
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is an old adage that guided ancient cultures how to exact justice in their penal system. It was designed to avoid excessive punishment in real life situations where justice taken into one’s hand often resulted to greater violence and recriminations. Exacting punishment commensurate to the crime was the norm. Life was the just payment for taking another’s life! While it served to deter crime for fear of its consequences, fear never really inspired internal change in a person. It will always be an external pressure. Remove the pressure, and the person will surely return to its old ways.
Jesus raised the bar of our sense of justice with the intention of driving internal change among those who followed him. To turn one’s cheek, to give beyond what is exacted, and to walk an extra mile is the way of God’s love. In deciding to avoid the need to protect oneself by following the way of Christ, one does not only change himself. He also extends that change to the other. He disarms the adversary by reminding him of his dignity and true worth, calms him down and prepares him to a transformed way of relating and interrelating. For the way of love throws water to the fire of anger. It soothes the pain of past wounds like balm. It negates the force of vindictiveness. It empties the heart of unnecessary baggage.
All of humanity is in a journey to eternal communion where no one should be considered a competitor or an enemy. We are all in this together. In choosing love over vengeance and in praying for those who persecute us (cf. v. 44), we advance the revolution of love ignited by the Son and sustained by the Holy Spirit. We open the doors of change for the self and others. We become true sons and daughters of God participating in this Divine activity.
1. From what will you be freed if you decide to love your enemies and your detractors?
2. St. John Eudes counted his enemies and oppressors as his benefactors for they helped him find the will of God and live it. How are you being formed and guided by God through your own adversaries?