Sunday Breakfast with the Word 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year A
Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18, 1 Corinthians 3:16-23, Matthew 5:38-48
How to Overcome Evil With Goodness
When you read the gospel and the first reading of today, you will observe that this is one of the hardest tasks that Jesus asks His disciples to do. Jesus asks His disciples to offer the wicked no resistance.
Normally, when you do this, some of them may begin to think that you are weak and a coward. When Jesus says this, He truly gave His disciples one of the secrets of overcoming evil.
A philosopher says that violence begets violence but goodness begets goodness. Whatever you sow, you will surely reap. Therefore, Jesus is teaching his disciples how to overcome evil with Goodness.
When we sow goodness in the midst of evil, one day, the seed that will sow will outshine the evil. Goodness has a ripple effect. One simple goodness can change a heart. Let me give you an example:
A priest narrates how he was driving across his parish to a nearby town to celebrate the Holy mass. While driving to the place, he did not know that he irritated another driver who was also rushing the same way.
The other driver pursued him and accelerated past him. He looked through his own and yelled angrily at the priest.
The priest in question was surprised because he was not expecting that. When the priest rolled down the window glass of the car to know why the driver was yelling, the driver made an obscene gesture, yelled at the priest again and sped on.
Not long after, as the priest was driving near the place he was going, he saw that same driver. His car had trouble, and he needed someone to help him and lo and behold, the priest he insulted was the person driving towards him. Immediately, he saw the priest, but he could not utter a word because he knew that the priest can never offer him any assistance.
So, what did the priest do? He stopped. When the driver saw that the priest had stopped, he feared that the priest would bash him or take revenge on him. But the priest did not come there to repay evil for evil. He asked some of the boys who were with him to offer the help and assistance the driver needed, while he went to celebrate the mass. The driver was shocked. The boys helped him.
The driver drove them to the town where the holy mass was going on. He waited until after the mass. Immediately, after the mass, the driver met the priest, knelt and was pleading for forgiveness. Of course, the priest forgave him. Till today, they became good friends.
Imagine what would have happened if the priest chose to take revenge or pour his anger on the driver. It might lead to a heavy and heated argument. It might even lead to a fight and cause injury to someone. But the priest, instead of aggravating violence with violence, the priest overcame evil with goodness.
This is the message that Jesus wants His disciples to grasp today. We overcome evil with goodness. We still choose to do good despite the evil at hand, despite the hurt, betrayal etc.
It is very normal that in life we must find people who are going to treat us badly. We must encounter those who are going to say bad things to us. We have them in our schools, neighbourhoods, friends and families. These people will always try to do evil things that will surely cause us suffering, pain and hardship.
Hence, the gist here is that when these happen, there is always also the tendency to repay them in the same way.
Sometimes we always want to avenge these deeds, we want to overcome them with the same evil they have done to us. Hence, Jesus says that our way of life is never to oppose evil with evil but to oppose evil with goodness.
In Romans 12:21, The word of God says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). This could be a very hard decision to abide by, but to overcome evil with Goodness is what separates the true disciples of Jesus from O yes members. It is the true mark of our identity.
What Jesus wants from His Disciples
1. The gospel today begins with “Jesus said to his disciples”. Therefore, Jesus was referring to His disciples. They are those who are following him, those who want to be like him, and those who are interested in living according to His teachings.
Therefore, presently, it includes all of us. Therefore, despite how people treat us with evil and hatred, this is what Jesus wants from His disciples. By our identity as Christians, this is what Jesus wants from us.
2. In the gospel, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But this is what I tell you “offer no resistance to one who is evil.“
This is called the law of tit for tat. We can find it in Leviticus 24:19-20. What this law suggests is that anyone who injures another must also be injured. So, whatever injury you give to another person, you must also receive it.
But Jesus teaches that we should refrain from such type of retaliation. The point here is that Jesus wants us to be like Him. If God also punishes us for all the sins and mistakes we have committed, no one would last. So, as He deals with us in love, He wants us to do the same.
2b. When Jesus says that if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well, Jesus is not advocating that we become stupid when people treat us badly. It is not wrong to fight for your human rights.
This is a metaphorical statement. A slap on the face means an insult, neglect and ill-treatment. Turning the other cheek here does not mean also that we put our lives in danger when we know someone wants to eliminate us.
This is simply a way Jesus is advising His disciples, not to use the same way people treated them and take revenge, rather for the sake of peace, we have to overcome with love. We should not join a barking dog.
A good example here is what happened in Luke 23:34. On the cross, one would expect Jesus to curse His persecutors, rather he chose to forgive them. He prayed for them too, when he said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”
This then certifies what Jesus says in Matthew 5:44 when He says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”. The message is that He wants us to be like Him. When we overcome with Goodness, goodness shall reign but when we use evil, evil also becomes the other of the day. Jesus is teaching us to refrain from taking revenge or bearing grudges against anyone.
3. As Christians, Jesus sets for us a standard we all have to aspire to. Every person has his or her aspiration in whatever profession and vocation she chooses. As Christians, Jesus wants all of us to aspire to perfection.
Remember that in Matthew 5:20, Jesus says that if our righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, we shall never enter the kingdom of heaven.
In today’s gospel, after asking His disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute us, Jesus says “be you perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.
This is the standard Jesus sets for us. When we truly aspire to be perfect, we shall always desire to live in love and peace with one another. This is what Jesus wants from us. This is why Jesus teaches us to seek love, instead of taking revenge or bearing grudges.
4. The main point of today’s gospel is that Jesus wants His disciples to overcome evil with goodness. Jesus’ intention is summarised with this statement “do not oppose evil with evil”. Christianity would have been the best way of life if every person could keep to the laws.
Inspiration from the Bible
1. When we read the book of I Samuel 24, we shall find a perfect example of today’s topic. It is good to note that King Saul tried to find a way to kill David several times but could not. He frustrated the life of David and made David run from one place to another to save His life.
Saul was told that David is in the Desert of En Gedi. Immediately, King Saul took three thousand men from all the lands of Israel and set out to look for David and his men. While they are in the desert searching for David to kill him, nature calls, and Saul goes into a cave to sleep. But they did not know that David and his men were already hiding far in the back of the cave.
Remember that Saul has been looking for many opportunities to kill David. Now David has the opportunity to kill Saul inside the cave. Even His men told David that God has put His enemy into His hand. But instead of overcoming evil with evil, David spared the life of Saul. David could cut off only a small part of his robe unnoticed. So, David maintained the rule as stated in Romans 12:17 says: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”
2. Another glaring example here is Joseph. Joseph is sold by his brothers for 20 pieces of silver because of their jealousy. They even wanted to kill him if not for the intervention of His brother Reuben. Joseph was later sent down to Egypt where he was bought by Potiphar.
After undergoing a series of problems, and temptations from Potiphar’s wife, He was again put into prison. Imagine the type of suffering his brothers subjected him to, out of jealousy. But after interpreting the dream of Pharaoh, Joseph is put in charge of overseeing all the land of Egypt.
Now, during the time of famine, Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery come to Egypt seeking provision. These evil brothers who sold Joseph into slavery and made him go through torture and pain also deserve revenge. Joseph was offered a perfect opportunity for payback, but rather he showed them love, kindness, and forgiveness. Joseph forgave all the injustice that was committed against him. Peace reigned instead of destruction.
There are many other examples like that of Stephen the first martyr, and during the crucifixion of the Lord, etc. Therefore, overcoming evil with Goodness is one of the very hard lessons for us to learn and obey.
How to Overcome Evil with Goodness
This will now lead us to the first reading. The first reading from the book of Leviticus outlines to us how to overcome evil with Goodness. They are:
1. We have to seek Holiness.
Seeking holiness must be the aspiration. We do not worship God only to seek signs and wonders. We do not seek God just for the sake of testimonies. So, We seek God also so that we may change. In the first reading, The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them: ‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. The command is straightforward. Therefore, when we strive to be holy, we would not give hatred, grudges and revenge a chance. We shall always aspire to be pure.
2. We must eschew any form of hatred. Therefore, what it means is that love should be the only guiding principle. God says in the first reading, ‘“You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. When love becomes our guiding principle, we shall always love to overcome with goodness. The first reading says that it is good to openly tell your neighbour of his offence. Instead of bearing grudges for him, we have to confront him.
3. We must avoid vengeance. We must also avoid bearing grudges for anyone.
4. Then, we must love others the way we love ourselves. If you want to inflict pain on the other person, put yourself in the shoes of that person. If you derive joy in betraying someone, ask yourself, what if such happens to you? Therefore, from the first reading, we must love and see others in ourselves.
When someone treats us badly, we naturally want to return the favour. If someone is mean to us, we want to be mean back to them.
Also, If someone yells at us, we want to yell at them. If someone cheats on us, we want to cheat them. If someone steals from us, we want to steal from them.
But God says don’t repay evil for evil. Why not? Because then you would be doing evil! Just because someone has done you wrong doesn’t give you the right to do wrong also. Two wrongs don’t make it right. Someone mistreating you does not justify you mistreating them. That’s the first lesson. Don’t repay evil for evil.
The Reason we have to Overcome Evil with Goodness
The second reading gives us the answer. The second reading reminds us that we have to realise that we are God’s temple. What is living in us is not a hologram, What is living in us is the Spirit of God.
Paul says that If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him. Therefore, what this temple needs are love, peace, joy, forgiveness, holiness and faithfulness. We do not have to fill it with bitterness, pain, grudges, or revenge. This temple is sacred and requires true and sincere attention.
1. A Christian does not oppose evil with more evil. A Christian fights his/her battle with the weapon of love and peace. There are times when people might push you hard and inflict pain on you, the only alternative is to revenge and show them how strong you are but Jesus tells His followers not to oppose evil with evil but rather overcome evil with goodness.
There are moments when people will slander your name, maim you at the back and destroy your name. Sometimes they even come and laugh with you but hide their true intention, they might even go on to destroy your image, the only alternative to this may be to get revenge and talk back. But Jesus tells us “do not oppose evil with evil”, rather overcome evil with goodness. Let us always know that Evil begets evil. But good also begets good. Therefore we have to overcome evil with goodness.
2. This does not mean you cannot speak and save your image. This does not mean you have to keep quiet. It does not mean allowing evil to take its victory, but that we do not resist them with another evil means. This means giving over all your battle to God. This means living without grudges against anyone. For Revenge is of the Lord ( Romans 12:19).
3. If we follow these teachings of Jesus from our human inclinations, one can see that it is so difficult to take. Hence, what we can discover from this teaching is that anybody can return evil for evil but God wants His children to live like Him.
God wants his children to live only with love, and to overcome evil with God. Love is a very powerful spiritual principle. You may have people in your life who have done you wrong and you have a right to be angry and bitter. You may feel as though your whole life has been stolen away by somebody who has mistreated you or deceived you, but if you will choose to let go of your grudge and forgive them you can overcome the evil with good. God sincerely rewards good acts like that. God takes up battles when you place them in His hands. When you make your battle, God’s battle, He will sincerely take it up. Take time and read 2 Chronicles 20.
If anybody had a right to return evil for evil, it was David and Joseph. But they overcome evil with Goodness.
4. Do you remember that David’s goodness to Saul leads Saul to start thinking of his sins and repentance? Saul is amazed that David did not touch him, despite that David knows all these while that He wants to kill him. David allowed his enemy to go unharmed. He speaks positive words to David: “May the Lord reward you. I know that you will surely be king.” Therefore, sometimes how we treat people or repay them after they have done wrong to us, can change them or at least keep them thinking about their mistakes.
5. Finally, what Jesus is teaching us today is that there must be a difference between the way pagans, and non-Christians handle problems and how Christians should handle their problems. Christians should put the law of love first. We do not go around living in bitterness, pain and grudges, rather we have to immerse ourselves in holiness, seeking to live a life of perfection. When we do this, goodness will always be our watchword. Let us learn how to overcome evil with goodness.
May God bless you dearest, and give you the grace to live in peace. May He protect you? Amen
Amen, remain blessed Fr., happy Sunday
Amen🙏, may He protect you too🙏
Amen! Happy Sunday father and thank you for your words of encouragement.
A THUNDEROUS Amen
Paying good for evil is a wonderful reflection.
Amen, May God gives us grace to understand this teachings for our own eternal life.🙏✋🙌🙏.
Amen. Thank you Padre for this beautiful reflection, I am inspired.
Amen. thank you Jesus. wonderful Fathell please I Know that the task is very hard. I lean on your grace to forgive my enemies and pray for them through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.
Amen. May God help me to put this into Practice.
Amen and same to you Fr.
Dear LORD, please help my little effort to make changes in my life.
Amen. Remain blessed Padre.
Amen 🙏. May God have mercy on me and on our country Nigeria.