Love of God, friends and enemies are the hallmarks
by Sister Agnes Fischer
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the whole community and tell them: 'Be holy, for I the Lord your God is holy.'" We may think holiness is reserved for people whom we call saints. We may not associate holiness with ourselves because of the inner feeling in us, which says: “Who am I to be holy?” In fact, holiness entails a holistic care of our physical and spiritual beauty. Spiritual beauty is taking care of the depth of our being, the soul, the life within us.
St. Paul provides a reason for holiness: “Do you not know you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” Paul compares the human person with the temple because the temple is not just an ordinary structure, but also a beautiful and magnificent one. The temple is the house of God and equivalent to a basilica, cathedral or church. In other words, the Apostle Paul says the human person is that beautiful and magnificent temple in which God dwells.
The book of Leviticus further explains the real meaning of holiness: “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus says that the things which destroy inner beauty are resentment, anger, hatred, animosity and violence. He instructs us to love our enemies. As if this was not hard enough, Jesus adds: “Offer no resistance to one who is evil. If someone strikes you on your right cheek offer the other as well.”
A Chinese proverb says: “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”
We hear much about the beauty of holiness. Let’s think of holiness as beauty.
"If someone strikes you on your right cheek, offer the other as well.” [Matt. 5: 39]
In the early '90's I attended the first-ever weekend Forgiveness Seminar @ UW-Madison. It was a grand gathering from all around our state and beyond, with national and international speakers. One parish priest from the Diocese of GB and I were the only two who attended from the GB area.
One particular speaker who shared his expertise as a Scripture scholar related to us how the passage, "Turn the other cheek," is not telling us to keep taking abuse, or to submit ourselves to a beating, as if we - and our bodies don't matter.
It is actually a demonstration, which Jesus' listeners would have come to understand, after having discussed it multiple times, role-played it many times and practiced it with others in their group first, before putting it into real-life-experience of offering one's offender an opportunity for conversion.
If you practice with someone, you will see what Jesus was teaching.
Stand before another and ask them to slap your face.
The slap causes your face to turn. When you then turn your face in the opposite direction, and leave it in that position, the slapper has to use his/her other hand to slap the other side of your face.
This moment of intentional pause, which you have just created for the slapper, offers him / her a moment to consciously ask of him/herself --- "Do I really want to hit this person again?"
In this moment of composure, perhaps the slapper will have a second thought on what s/he is really doing. S/he might realize how wrong or senseless or counter-productive his/her anger and violence really is.
I left that seminar with a wonderful kind of awakening, and as much as I yearned to "hear" this kind of interpretation and understanding of this gospel in the new light in which I had heard it in Madison, back home in the parishes of GB, I never have. That has always been a great disappointment for me.
To this day, I still long for someone to instruct and teach us this most valuable lesson of this passage, for it is like finding "gold" among the gravel and stones.
You can learn a lot more on-line from the International Forgiveness Institute, Madison, WI. It is a great joy to know the International Forgiveness Institute has been up and running all these remaining years.