March 19, 2017
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” This quote is called
lex talionis in Latin, which is literally translated as “The Law of the Jungle.” Ancient people practiced this code for the preservation of their kind. It was a law of survival of the fittest where if you are weak then extinction is not far from your existence. Barbarians were angry people, they perceived those outside their tribe as enemies who would steal from them or kill their tribe mem- bers. Anger was a part of surviving the lex talionis.
We have different ways of expressing and communicating our resent- ment. Anger is a natural human valid emotion. See, animals retaliate right when they get hurt; a dog bites when accidentally stepped on. But what makes us rise above the animal kingdom is we are endowed with reason. In philosophy, we are called rational animals. This gift of reason enables us to think before we react. Being rational creatures, we are expected to act and react according to what our reason dictates. Christians as we are, there is more than just being a ‘thinking man.’ When we were baptized in this faith we became rational charitable human persons. We should think charitably before we act or react to situations. Yes, react charitably even when we are hurt. That is the message of Jesus in today’s gospel - return love for hatred.
Many times, in the confessional I have been asked, “Fr. Michael is it all right to get angry?” My usual answer is: you will go crazy if keep it in your heart. The Lord doesn’t want us to keep our anger. As human beings, we must release and express the negative emotions in our heart. The Lord in today’s gospel teaches us to go beyond our anger, to go beyond the idea of retribution.
Do you recall the episode when the soldier slapped Jesus? He was hurt, but Jesus did not cuss; he simply asked: “Why did you do that? What wrong did I do to you?” I can imagine the soldier without a word to utter. The calm reaction of Jesus said and says a lot. When the people we have hurt tell us, “Why did you hurt me, what wrong did I do to you?” we feel embarrassed; it makes us think. It is actually an invitation toward introspection.
Before getting angry, and before opening our lips when we are hurt, don’t forget to reflect and remember the word THINK. T- truth (Is what I am going to say True?) H-helpful, I- important, N- necessary and K- kind.
Fr. Michael Gazzingan, Parochial Vicar