Retaliation to violence doesn't lead us anywhere
Forgiveness is an answer
Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? What does this question of Paul tell each one of us? I am the temple of God, and everyone around me, friend or enemy, is also a temple of God. Let this message get into our hearts and minds. This privilege is neither granted because of any of our achievements (so no chance of pride) nor lost because of sin (always an option of coming back). Such a God who privileges us highly is also reminding us in the first reading of our call to be Holy, just as our father in heaven is holy. Holiness is not levitating in prayer, or having visions/prophecies/gifts; the book of Leviticus speaks of loving the neighbour, having no hatred or revenge against our brother or sister. Yes, imitating God in holiness is through our lives. When Mathew in the gospel asks us to be perfect as our heavenly father is, Luke exhorts us to be compassionate or merciful as the father is. Yes, holiness or perfection can be best imitated in love and mercy.
Continuing with last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus continues to speak of how he fulfils the law and the prophets. It was told that eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth. In our contemporary language, we say tit for tat; or may be even Karma, or s/he deserves that punishment. Its apt for them. Yes, Jesus recognises the violence and injustice that happens in the society. He is definitely not telling us, especially the vulnerable sessions of the society to continue to suffer all the injustices. But the culture of exact retaliation won’t help to settle violences. As Christians, we are called to carefront, and not to confront the other. Yes, its not always easy, but such a practice alone can reduce the violence and bring a greater peace.
In that context, we can understand the commandment of Jesus to love the enemies. I surely may not feel the emotion of love for a person who tortured me. But can I have an agapeic love, a love that will do good for that person if an opportunity arise, a love that responds to the violence from the other not necessarily by violence. It builds bridges (those bridges may be weak) instead of building walls that separates us. A beautiful example is the family of Bl. Rani Maria; they forgave the murderer; her sister went further and tied the Rakhi on Jeevan Singh; her family went beyond and accepted her as a son. This might not be an every day event, but forgiveness, love and mercy alone can stop the chain of violence that exists in our society.
As we celebrate the world marriage day (one week late in our parish), marital relationships are also based on these principles of love, joy, mercy, giving and forgiveness. It is never 50–50; one person has to give more; I am sure that one person alone giving more always in not the best in marriage. But as many couples attest, giving freely and unconditionally to the other, helps their relationships. In that sense, marriage has a special privilege, which no other sacrament has, to imitate the unconditional love of holy trinity through their lives.
My dear brothers and sisters, readings invite us to reflect on holiness, and God forgives and loves unconditionally; we may not able to do follow him fully, but we can try to compete with the other human beings in forgiving and loving, rather than in violence.
I am the temple of God, and everyone around me, friend or enemy, is also a temple of God.
**This is my homily, so a little bit in the spoken form.