Should we really “turn the other cheek”?

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” Well ! I tell you not to retaliate against the wicked; but if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him again. » (Mt 5:39) What did Jesus really mean in this famous Gospel passage?

This sentence that Jesus pronounces is undoubtedly one of the least well-understood passages of the Gospels with the famous: “Judge not, lest you be judged” ( Mt 7:1 ). It would seem that Christ is asking here for complete disarmament in the face of moral, spiritual and physical evil, an instruction which at first glance can prove revolting. How could “turning the other cheek,” in passive indifference, be right when sacrilege replaces the sacred? When lies take the place of truth? Is the perversion of purity? When abomination replaces beauty? When entertainment is mistaken for worship? As for the place of sacred tradition, are we introducing new things? And when finally, the charity of the heart is replaced by the heavy hand of the State?

Become passive?

Saint Thomas Aquinas warns us against such haphazard and imprudent reading: “The Holy Scriptures must be understood in the light of Christ and the other saints.” To better understand the passage on the cheek, Saint Thomas relies on the Gospel of Saint John, in chapter 18, 23 , when Jesus addresses the guard who hit him. He also evokes the journey of Saint Paul in the Acts of the Apostles ( 16, 22 ). “Christ did not turn the other cheek at that moment, and neither did Saint Paul. Therefore, we must not think that Christ commanded us to physically turn our cheek to those who would strike the other.” When Paul in Acts 23:3 was struck, he did not remain silent, but warned his attacker of divine judgment and punishment.

How can we follow Christ’s example?

So how can we understand the expression “turn the other cheek” by following the example of Jesus and the saints? Obviously, it cannot be a matter of passive indifference to evil or false inertia, especially when the treasures of faith and reason are in grave danger. Saint Thomas Aquinas shows us the way: “To make a literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount actually means to misinterpret it. However, this precept rather exhorts one to be ready to endure, if necessary, similar or even worse things, without bitterness towards one’s aggressor. Our Lord teaches us, by word and example, not to succumb to evil, but rather to resist it by fighting against the temptation to hate the one who does it.

Yes, as Jesus tells us, we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This is a task that we must accomplish. But this obligation does not exempt us from protecting the weakest, from resisting evil or from defending what Christ has entrusted to his Church, which He Himself founded. Lent is a holy time, a true “training camp” which reminds us, each year, that there is a real battle to be fought for the salvation of our souls and of all creation Satan and his slaves hate the work of God and would like to destroy, on Earth, what was created for Heaven. In our hearts and in our minds a war rages, the stakes of which are at stake in Eternity. Our love for God is always in danger of growing cold, just as our passion for the world is always in danger of becoming inflamed. In everything that surrounds us, today’s culture and the arrogance of the State constantly attempt to seduce us, reduce us to silence, and finally, consume us.

Enter through the narrow door

Lent is a time to discover if something other than God has power over us. It is a time to discern, with clarity, who rules over our hearts. It is a time to check whether we have the humility, docility and will necessary to “enter through the narrow gate” ( Matthew 7:13 ) which is the only way to heaven. It is time for us to wake up and realize that we are at war and that at the moment, events do not seem to be moving in the right way. Let us remember that Saint Bernard said that “God punishes good when we do not fight against evil”. In His Mercy , the Lord gives us the time of Lent to train ourselves for the battle: a battle that we must fight until our last breath.

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