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Teaching about retaliation

Gospel Reading: Mt 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”


Vengeance seems so natural to us that we shake our heads when we hear Jesus speaking so vehemently against it.

It has taken a long history to curb this seemingly natural reaction to evil. In the first books of the Old Testament there are still stories about unlimited revenge. The Law of Moses then curbs it by declaring “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The same injury that one gives another shall be inflicted in return” (Lv 24:20). In other words, if somebody takes your eye, you are not allowed to kill him; you may take his eye only.

And then comes Jesus and prohibits any kind of revenge. Not only that, he urges us to do something good to the person who has hurt us – a heroic act indeed.

We understand Jesus when we look at contemporary history. In some parts of southern Italy, whole villages are deserted because the inhabitants have been killed due to vendetta. We know the tragic situation in the Middle East where wars periodically flare up and countless innocent people are killed because of revenge. Even in our relationships we experience the breakdown of friendships and marriages because one cannot forgive the other.

If we are created in the image of God who is love, we understand why Jesus demands love as reaction to evil, to hurt. He invites us to imitate God and make God’s love visible by not giving in to the automatic reaction of vengeance that only prolongs and even amplifies evil.

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“Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Rom 12:21).

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.