So, what is Jesus really asking of us when He tells us to turn the other cheek, to hand over our cloak as well as our tunic, and to voluntarily go an extra mile? He is teaching us how to respond to personal insults and humiliations. It was humiliating and offensive to be slapped on the right cheek, to be forced to hand over a tunic to pay a debt, to be consigned to carrying a foreigner’s pack in your own homeland. Jesus wants us to respond to personal insults with grace, patience, and forgiveness. He wants us to break the cycle of violence by not always insisting on getting our own way, but going out of our way to do good to others, even when they don’t strictly deserve it. That’s what God did with us by sending Jesus to be our Savior and that’s what He wants us to do for those around us. We can all make selfless acts of generosity every once in a while. We can even give the appearance of doing it often, if we want to impress certain people, like a girlfriend or boyfriend, or a boss or professor but Christ is asking each of us, as His followers, to go deeper. He wants us to form the virtue of generosity, so that our habitual mode of behavior corresponds to His own example of constant, self-forgetfulness, constant self-giving, like the sun that shines on the just and the unjust alike. This is the path to happiness for ourselves, and to lasting peace and
prosperity for our society.
How can we do this? How can we go deeper in following Christ’s example of generosity and self-forgetful love? We have to start at home. We have to learn to “go the extra mile” by doing a little more than our share of the chores, and not looking for any rewards. We have to learn to “turn the other cheek” by being the first one to say we’re sorry, even if the fault is not totally with us. We have to learn to “give over our cloak” by giving our family members the benefit of the doubt, excusing them from their foibles as easily as we excuse ourselves. This is where true Christian virtue begins, at home, with those who are closest to us, those whom we know so well and who know us so well, those who rub us the wrong way most often. If we can learn to be self-forgetful with them, doing so with others will be a piece of cake and with the help of God’s grace, which he will generously give us again during this Holy Mass, we surely can.
In Christ love,
Deacon Mark Ruiz