7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A - 19/02/2023 - Gospel: Mt 5:38-48
Evil is real. It happens in thoughts, words, and actions. It exists within us and is deeply rooted in our hearts. Evil is so obvious that everyone knows it. It exists both in ancient times and in modern society. When justice is violated, peace is destroyed, human relationships are broken, and hurt remains in the heart of the people. There is a real need to ease the pain of the victim; and to restore harmony and peace to society. Justice is upheld to protect life and deter further violence. Tribal court or public court of justice is held to resolve disputes, differences and bring justice for the victim, and punish the oppressor. Justice is done when the punishment is not too lenient or too severe that out-weights the crime that has been committed. For a long time, people considered that 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' is fair justice. It is impossible to measure exact vengeance, because of differences in age and wisdom and talents, but that is all the wisdom of this world can do. This physical approach would ease the tension and balm the pain, but it would have little effect on improving the spiritual life of the parties involved. Jesus recognizes the complexity of human relationships, and the need to have a peaceful solution in dealing with acts of evil. Violence often associates with either conflict of interest, fear of being out of control, or non-compliance. Jesus told his disciples what to do when they are being confronted. He first instructed them to avoid confrontation, but to be submissive and accept the humiliation right on the spot. This approach aims to defuse hostile situations, and prevent further acts of violence. When the oppressor feels that he is in control of the situation, he might calm down and is more lenient in his action. Submission and compliance is not a sign of weakness, but rather inner strength, the power of self-control.

Jesus gave the second instruction, and that is the permanent solution. This approach is not simply to deter further acts of violence, but rather to change the inner life, and the heart of a person. It is the conversion of a heart. This solution requires love, pray and forgiveness. 'Love your enemies' 5,43 is his teaching. This loving attitude is most effective when it is done in a prayerful spirit. Jesus tells his disciples to 'pray for those who hurt you' 5,44.

The trio: loving, praying for, and forgiving one's enemy is Jesus' way of combating violence and the forces of evil. The strength of his teaching is the power of prayer. Punishment and correctional services would not change the heart of a person, but God's grace-filled love can. Christians change the hearts of others by relying on the power of prayers. It is God who changes the heart of a person through our petitions. Forgiveness is needed in prayers because it makes our prayer more fervent and more trusting. Prayers have the power to make people reflect and see how wrong they were in relationships with God and others. This recognition would change the heart of a person: from violent relationships to calm and peaceful ones.

When there is a conversion of the heart; that person turns away from the world, and belongs to God. S/he is no longer your enemy, but rather your brother and sister in Christ. This permanent solution is not aiming to punish the oppressor but make him recognize, we are all 'Children of your Father who is in heaven' 5,45.

God's way is not to punish, but to forgive and save the lost ones. God discriminates against no one and so do his children. Everyone is our neighbour. As God's children, we each have personal experiences of being forgiven.

The evil spirits would not give up; but would love to win people back; and make a home in people's hearts. Holiness comes from God, we gain it through prayers. In praying we receive inner strength to combat temptation, and the wisdom to be resilient in prayer.