Monday June 17, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Kings 21:1-16) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:38-42)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading today that we are not to offer resistance to anyone who is evil and that if anyone strikes us on one cheek, we are supposed to turn and offer them the other as well. This goes against everything that is in us; everything that we are about would rally against that. Naturally, we are going to say, "No, we need to resist these things. If someone wants to hit us, we defend ourselves, we fight back, or whatever it is that we might think of doing." But Our Lord tells us not to do that.
Now, of course, we can look at the first reading and say, "Look what happens if you do not resist evil." They take Naboth out and they stone him on false accusations. Yet, at the same time, God is going to bring about a greater good from the whole thing. What the Lord is trying to tell us is that if somebody is going to do something which is unjust toward us, we can turn that into something which is very good; not that what the person is doing is very good, but rather it is a question of our response to what the person is doing.
All we need to do as Christian people is look at the crucifix, the ultimate in injustices, and yet the greatest act of charity ever done. Look at the good that God has brought out of such an injustice. We can ask ourselves, "What would have happened had Jesus offered resistance? What would have happened had He not turned the other cheek?" When the soldiers struck Him on one cheek and beat Him over the head with a reed, He offered them the other cheek and let them hit Him there too. Where would our salvation be if Jesus would have defended Himself before Pilate? Where would our salvation be if He would have stood up against the soldiers? What if He, as God, would have decided to unleash His omnipotent power against them and knocked them all dead on the spot? He could have done so; He is God. But instead, He followed the exact advice that He gave to us. He did not offer resistance to the evil; rather what He did was to do exactly what He told us: He prayed for His persecutors and He loved His enemies. And it was in doing exactly that that He brought about the conversion of some of those people and, therefore, brought about their salvation.
It is that which the Lord is asking of us. He will take care of us. We do not have to worry about trying to fight for ourselves; all we need to do is trust in the Lord, and He is going to take care of it. Now that does not mean we should just simply lie down and be a doormat all the time. We have our part to do. But the primary point is to simply trust in the Lord and allow Him to take care of things for us. He will let us know when we need to do something, and He will give to us the grace and the strength to do what we have to do. He will do the rest.
These are not easy things for us. Our nature rebels against it. Everything in our society rebels against it. Everything that we have been taught generally rebels against it. Yet we need to look beyond what is natural; we need to look to what is supernatural. We need to look to the teaching of Jesus Christ and apply it to ourselves and stop trying to justify ourselves when we are doing something that is wrong because we think it is okay due to what somebody else has done to us. Rather, what we need to do is make sure we are following the teaching of Our Lord and being obedient to Him and living according to His precepts. That is our task as Christian people. When we stand before God, we are going to have to answer for what we have done. If we stand before God and say, "I was obedient to what You taught," then we are going to have an open door to be able to enter Heaven. If we stand before God and try to justify ourselves, we are going to be in trouble for eternity. The only justification that we will have is Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.