Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
June 17, 2019
Today, in Mercy, our reading from Matthew again shows us how revolutionary Jesus really was!
For the Jews who listened to Jesus, and for us still listening, today’s instructions might be some of the hardest to swallow! These readings encompass a phrase classically known as the lex talionis or the law of talion.
We may not be familiar with the phrase but we probably are quite familiar with the practice. Most of us begin it very early in life, at least in my young neighborhood we did. It went like this: Harry bites you, you bite him back. Janey pushes you, you push her harder. Margie takes your pickle, you take her peach. Right? Isn’t that the way it should be?
Well, Jesus says not, although his listeners had lived by variations of this law from the time of:
But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
and Leviticus 24:19-21
Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.
Believe it or not, these harsh injunctions were actually intended to placate situations by preventing a backlash disproportionate to the original crime.
But Jesus says that is not enough. He says not to resist the evildoer. Scholars have considered for centuries exactly what this means.
Does it mean to ignore evil, not calling it out for what it is? Obviously not, because Jesus Himself was quick to name the evils of his times.
Does it mean to be a doormat for evil-hearted people to walk all over? Definitely not. Jesus stood up to his persecutors and clearly named their wrong-doing.
What it means is not to return evil for evil, not to respond in-kind, as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:15
See that no one repays another with evil for evil,
but always seek after that which is good
for one another and for all people.
One of the key Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy is non-violence. I find it one of the most challenging.
This article, written by Rosemarie Tresp, RSM proved very helpful to me. You might find it so as well.
Music: Make Me a Channel of Your Peace – written by Sebastian Temple, sung by Susan Boyle