Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(I Kings 21:1-16; Matthew 5:38-42)
Few gospel passages have provoked more soul searching reflection than that of today and tomorrow. Seemingly Jesus is calling his disciples not to defend their families, much less themselves, if attacked. Is that even humane? Or is Jesus exaggerating as when he says one must hate one’s parents to be his disciple (Luke 14:26)?
Thomas Aquinas justifies killing in self-defense if one does not intend to kill the aggressor. The case is not one of doing evil to achieve the good because the defender acts in place of the civil authority. For Aquinas only the state acting as God’s minister in pursuit of the common good can take a life.
Then is Aquinas faithful to the gospel? One would be reckless to accuse Thomas Aquinas of biblical infidelity. He sees Jesus correctly as talking of personal righteousness. Jesus does not intend that his statement be generalized to cover every case of evil. He does insist, however, as tomorrow’s passage will show that we love our enemies. This means that we do not want them harm. But if they present themselves as unjust aggressors unstoppable short of killing, then let it be done. Aquinas will make one exception to this rule. An ordained man cannot kill under any circumstances.