Last week a young boy of 16 was murdered and two of his friends seriously wounded as they were traveling in a van in New York City.  This unprovoked act of violence filled the hearts of many people with great anger and frustration.  All of us recoil at senseless violence and injustice.  And yet we all know that violence and injustice must be rejected in favor of justice, understanding and peace.  

                In the gospel Jesus’s message to us is very clear; there is no room for any retaliation; no eye for an eye, no resistance to injury; indeed, “when a person strikes you on the right cheek, turn and offer him the other.”  We can ask, as so many have done, whether the Lord is leaving us Christians helpless, defenseless, and vulnerable in a world full of violence and injustice.  Is passivity the only weapon in our Christian arsenal in our dealings with such a violent society?  There are those who would like to dismiss the advice as impractical, unrealistic, and even bordering on the absurd.  And such an assessment seems reasonable in human terms.  Don’t we remember the days of hostages in Iran, or those killed or injured on 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing, and how anger and fantasies of revenged crossed our minds?  We remember how even people who were noted for their patience and forbearance began to demand violence to end these nightmares of violence.  In the midst of unfairness injustice and frustration, any retaliation seems a viable option.  In a violent society which has become even more violent because of the craze to carry arms to high school, and killing weapons are sold at enormous profits, it would seem only natural for the Lord to be thought of as an outsider.

                Then there are those who genuinely desire to follow the Lord in every detail yet find this teaching bitter medicine to be taken with deep reservations; or as a tough ideal best left to Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa, but certainly not for poor, frail humans like you or like me.  Was the Lord kidding when He asked us to turn the other cheek?  Yet listening to the gospel, we know that the Lord couldn’t have been more serious.  He was simply presenting a principle for the Christians to live by.   Actually, it is a call to action.  This call goes beyond mere avoidance of retaliation or refraining from revenge.  It is even something beyond tolerance.  It is a clear challenge to active, dynamic love even for those who reject that love.  It is, therefore, a call to extend our love and caring beyond the natural boundaries of friends and family.  This love should include the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, the black and the white, the Jew and the Arab, the liberal and the conservative, the Western world and third world.

                Jesus said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  We need to learn to love the way our heavenly Father does.  If we are to be His followers, we have to love even our enemies.  This kind of love is the only solution to violence and hurt and injustice.  This solution begins with you and with me so that a violent world will be transformed into the loving world that our heavenly Father has created.