It can be easy to get angry with someone who is being rude. As a parent, I’ve learned that it is even worse when I see someone being rude to my kids or my wife. I can often “let it slide” when it is just to me, though my feelings get hurt. I learned a long time ago that often the things that cause the most significant reaction, though, are the things that I see in them, that I also have seen in myself over the years.
I think that is part of why Jesus tells us in this part of the sermon on the mount that we can’t simply live our lives with the “eye for an eye” mentality. Nothing can make two people look more similar than for them to react with the same anger. When we match each other’s energy, all too often, it just escalates tension. Anger breeds anger; hate breeds hate.
Gandhi once said, “an eye for an eye makes the world go blind.” It does not redeem. It does not enhance. It only turns us into a reaction, lowering us to the level of base instinct that even the most basic of animals would mirror. Jesus’ teachings demand that we do not reflect the world but instead provide a glimpse of the forgiveness and love of Christ to the person who has angered or hurt us. Then we pray and hope that they will begin to mirror us, see the beauty of the love of God, and want to imitate Christ in their lives.
So, I want to leave you today with a quote from Saint Anthony of Padua, whose memorial day is today. Saint Anthony is probably tired of hearing about my lost keys, wallet, and phone, but Saint Anthony also understood that we are to be a living reflection of the creator. He said that we should pause and take a moment before responding:
“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart. If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face. If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence, and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”
That way, when people look at us, instead of seeing a reflection of their anger, a reflection of their pain and hurt; they see a reflection of God’s love pouring out through us.
A homily for the Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest, and Doctor of the Church: June 13th, 2022