We hear much about the violence happening in Syria, the Ukraine, Afghanistan and the violence that is happening in our own country. We are shocked and try to understand how this can be. If you are like me, I shake my head and wonder what I can do in these situations that seem far away. Then I say a prayer for peace and quietness for the violence to end.
These readings today gave me much hope that peace can come in my part of the world and maybe, just maybe, peace can come one person at a time and one region at a time. If you think about it, there is much violence in our own families, workplaces, and communities. There may not be killings and assaults, but there is much violence happening verbally: between people we love and work with. Leviticus begins our readings by saying: "Don't seek revenge or carry a grudge against anyone. When we do that we are acting violently against another person. Even if we do not act in a violent way we are acting violently in our mind. Remember, every action we do begins with a thought. So by entertaining a grudge we are being violent in our thoughts. It would be much better to pray for the person so that the difficulty between you can be resolved and peace can enter into your relationship.
Matthew's Gospel is more explicit. This section of the Gospel sometimes gets misunderstood. It says and "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". When people read this they fail to read the next line. DON'T HIT BACK AT ALL. Jesus is stating that "we do not strike back but stand there and take it. No more tit for tat. Live generously".
What is more is that Jesus tells us to "love our enemies". He goes on to say that we must respond with the "energies of peace." What does that mean? It means to me that we must loving, kind, compassionate, and grateful towards that, so called enemy, in our life. When we recognize that another is being mean or cruel or hurtful, it should be a reminder to us that this is a person who is in pain and needs our help. This is a good reminder to us to pray for this person or group more regularly to help them in thinking and actions to us and to others. When I say be grateful for the seemingly uncaring person, I mean that. It gives us practice in praying, practice in being compassionate, and practicing being the kind of person Jesus wants us to be.
Part of living nonviolently in our lives is for us to be nonviolent with others in a conscious way. Part of the Creed of Non-Violence from Pax Christy says that we should be non-violent in tongue and heart. This part of the creed that I try to live, but gives me the most trouble. How can I be nonviolent when someone has hurt me deeply and continues to hurt me? I may not act in a violent way but sometimes I may think of ways to get back at the other person. To me it means that I need a generous spirit to not say mean and nasty things even in my mind. That means that I must not even think of ways to retaliate. Very difficult!!