Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, priest
(II Corinthians 6:1-10; Matthew 5:38-42)
Few Christian communities have taken Jesus’ message in the gospel today more literally than the Quakers, the Society of Friends. For generations Quakers were given deferments from conscription into the U.S. Army because of their official position against the use of force. In today’s gospel Jesus lays the groundwork for the Quakers’ policy.
Jesus’ command to offer no resistance to evil is a super-tall order. Many insist with good reason that he is using hyperbolic language. This means that Jesus exaggerates the obligation in order to move his followers from the natural disposition of taking revenge. In other words, disciples do not have to submit completely to aggressors but, nevertheless, should be forbearing in their response.
Forbearance is not a popular virtue today. People either try to get even when they are offended, or they sulk in bitterness. Forbearance inclines us to tolerate others’ faults and to forgive their offenses. In these ways we mirror the Father’s patience with the sins of the world, which include our own.