“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

Matthew 5:39

Monday, 15 June 2020

1 Kings 21:1–16; Psalm 5:2–3b, 4b–7; Matthew 5:38–42.

It is a mistake to imagine that the Christian response to injustice is passivity. To ‘turn the other cheek’ in the context of the first century is an act of overt resistance. Why? Because it indicates that the contempt implicit in the slap is rejected. In effect, it is an act of refusal to kowtow to contempt. Turning the other cheek is an invitation: Do your worst!

A closer reading of this whole section suggests a nonviolent form of resistance – in Jesus’ context to Roman rule or to exploitation. Each act – going the extra mile, for example, puts a Roman soldier who had the right to dragoon a person to carry his pack for a mile and only a mile, into a state of violation of the law – undermines those who use power and wealth to oppress.

At a time where people everywhere are oppressed by unjust and overbearing state power, let us consider how we can use the ‘system’ to undermine itself.

Loving God,

Guide us in our actions as we resist those who undermine freedom; May the wisdom of Jesus teach us to use oppressors’ strength against them; May your Spirit strengthen us in all we do.

Amen.

 
Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

a.egan@jesuitinstitute.org.za
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