We heard this AM at Mass the familiar Gospel passage urging us to turn the other cheek and to pray for our enemies. I can’t find full lectionary citations because the page from the USCCB is blank. But it is assuredly not about pacifism. In fact, the whole Christian theory of a “Just War” is predicated on the idea that at times the only way to “bless those who curse you” may be to correct their errors. Rather these verses are about a spiritual war that constantly rages around us; since Eden, in fact.
If the truth of the world is the establishment of the Kingdom of God and the overthrow of the Kingdom of death then certainly those who work against this truth are our enemies. But who is thus working? Most folks don’t even believe this is the truth of the world. They can’t be part of the enemy. Also, humans can’t be the enemy for we are told by Paul that “we wrestle not with flesh and blood.” Furthermore, Christ did not die to save only some: the intent, as Paul says, is to reconcile all things. Who is it that works against this reconciliation? Who is the enemy who accuses and scatters?
Humans, at their core, need this reconciliation. In fact, they sense they need it, they crave it. They object to the methods, they deny the process, but they admit the need. What gets them to reject the truth, to work against even their own desire, to deny the very hope they have rooted in their own breast by virtue of being made in the image of God?
Delusional actions can’t be blamed on the delusional. Those who are most mentally or spiritually ill are exactly the least culpable. For a Christian, as for Jesus Christ, the effort expected to embody and to present love increases to match the depth to which one has been drug away into darkness. Turning the other cheek is not a pacific shoulder shrug of indifference, but rather a long walk past the gates to harrow hell once again. They can never be locked now but humans can be distracted and so kept from walking out. We must show them the way. And even when in delusion they imagine -and name – themselves to be our enemies, it only signifies how much more we must love, pray, and bless to bring them forth.
This is the spiritual warfare of everyday life, the on-going battle to advance the Kingdom. We do not do this in any way by defeating even one human being – for each one is uniquely the image of God. The Kingdom is spread only in liberating each heart – including each his own – from the darkness that has been overthrown yet continues in pockets of colonial oppression.
We bless to drive away the demons, we pray for their defeat. We love to draw men forth, and we do good to show them the love God has for them. This is not pacifism. This is war. This is the only real war there is.