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How to take ‘turn the other cheek’ seriously

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Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 06/13/22

This kind of request retains a romantic aura when it is proposed in the abstract ... when it touches our actual life and the real suffering that some people inflict on our existence, then everything changes.

Today’s readings are here.

Matthew 5:38-42

Reflection

History has produced a compelling reasoning for behavior: “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It’s a mirror morality that makes us behave according to what we experience: If I receive something good, I give something good; if I receive something bad, I respond in kind.

Jesus shatters this mirror and points to a new way of thinking, a new way of choosing:

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.

This kind of request retains a romantic aura when it is proposed in the abstract, through hypothetical stories and with imaginary people, but when it touches our actual life and the real suffering that some people inflict on our existence, then everything changes: The romanticism becomes absurdity, and we start to perceive as an injustice what formerly seemed an admirable request.

Humanly speaking, we’re right, but Jesus’ request can be understood only in the light of the gift of the Spirit. The more we make room in us for the spiritual life, the more our standard of judgment and the way we make our choices will change. We begin to reason and choose as Jesus wants us to. So in order to take this Gospel passage seriously, we must not do violence to ourselves, but make room in ourselves for more and more spiritual experience.

~

Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese of Italy and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

Aleteia is proud to offer this commentary on the readings for daily Mass, in collaboration with Fr. Epicoco.

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