Monday of Week 11 in Ordinary Time
Psalter Week 3
1 Kings 21:1-16; Psalm 5:2-3,5-7; Matthew 5:38-42
One of the most frequently mis-used quotes in the Bible is in today's reading from Kings - 'Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth'. The popular idea seems to be that one should be allowed to extract just revenge for wrong done. Much mischief is made of this - but Jesus was not encouraging this behaviour. The original actual meaning of the eye for eye rule was to limit revenge to no more than the damage caused to the plaintiff. Exodus 21, Leviticus 24 and Deuteronomy 19 all discuss this revenge.
Jesus goes way further - Jesus says 'offer the wicked no resistance'. This is a very challenging command. What should we do for example, if an aggressor storms into our country with overpowering military might and tries to take over? The natural human response is of course to fight back, to defend. Under old testament law then, we would be justified in fighting back with the same - but no more - military force as used against us. Jesus is challenging us with a very different approach - offer no resistance to the wicked. There is a very real need to discuss this in the context of the current situation in Ukraine. Finding the right answer is so difficult as we are equally justified in defending the weak against oppression.
St Thomas Aquinas, established int he 13th Centruy, three conditions for a Catholic to engage in war in a just way:
- It must be waged by lawful public authority in defense of the common good;
- It must be waged for a just cause;
- It must be waged with the right intention — not vengefully nor to inflict harm.
We must neither be 'hawkish' to use the language of today, nor should we be pacifist as many Quakers are. If all thee of these conditions are met then not only is it just to fight - it is required. Always - one should battle for peace and always, question what we do against these three conditions.
Let us today pray to St Anthony, who forgave sinners and welcomed them back into his life (see the link above) to guide us when we think of Ukraine - and all other convicts big and small.