|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XIV: ”On the Consideration of God’s Secret Judgments so that We be Not Proud of Our Own Good” (first entry)
If one word could be used to encapsulate this entire work it is “humility.” In this chapter, it is emphasized that God is everything and that man is nothing. He gives us everything, sustains us in everything, and the little good we think we do is nothing in the immenseness of God.
As we slowly continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, we find here the Lord giving us a tremendous challenge: the famous “turn the other cheek,” give your cloak as well as your tunic, “go the extra mile,” and give to all who ask something of you.
The heading in the link for today’s Gospel calls this section “Teaching about Retaliation.” What is Christ’s teaching on retaliation? In a word: don’t. How does this work? Is it not against every instinct of ours to not only be treated unfairly but then to do nothing about it (and, in fact, invite even more abuse)? We need the Lord to strengthen us in our inconstancy and inflame us in our tepidness in order to have any chance to do these difficult things. Even so, it hardly makes sense to us. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis provides insight:
The willingness to *surpirse* our adversary with compassion, with love, with forgiveness — with justice according to the Heart of Christ, in other words — performs a far more efficient and constructive task [than revenge]. It puts evildoers at the risk of being converted, and it dynamizes the whole of society by introducing into it the most divine of all principles: self-giving at all costs….Perhaps my open hands and silent mouth become the most eloquent of teachers, and I will have won a brother in the Lord.
Perhaps, perhaps. I must run the risk that my apparent weakness will be construed as an added invitation to even greater violence and that my enemy will move on to slap the next man’s cheeks….Is this not, however, the very risk our Lord took in coming into our midst, in handing himself over to us, in opening his arms on the Cross? Generosity of the sort practiced by Christ is incompatible with any kind of calculation. We must act as he taught and as he acted.Fire or Mercy, Heart of the Word (Volume One), p. 235
Enemies of religion sometimes deride believers by asserting that people of faith have made up their beliefs in order to find comfort or escapism in them. After reading Gospel passages like this one and taking them seriously…really?