Sunday, August 24, 2014: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost & Eleventh Sunday of Matthew
Martyr Eutyches, disciple of John the Theologian; New Hieromartyr Cosmas Aitolos, equal-to-the-Apostles and evangelizer of southern Albania; recovery of the relics of Dionysios, bishop of Zakinthos and of Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow
St Ignatius Orthodox Church
Frequently we hear people—even Christians—contrasting justice and forgiveness as if the latter had somehow replaced the former. But this isn’t true. The opposite of forgiveness is not justice but vengeance.
For example, we read in Old Testament, “ eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:24-25). When we read this we need to remember that in the ancient world vengeance, the vendetta, was the norm). We have to understand that in context the Old Testament contains, “not … any smack of permission to mutual injury.” Rather, as Tertullian tells us, what we see is, “on the whole, a provision for restraining violence. … So the permission of this retribution was to be the prohibition … to all hot-blooded injury.” Here God commands “[m]oderation …, so that the penalty may not be greater than the injury.,,, this is the beginning of peace.”
While Jesus calls us to a higher standard (Matthew 5:38-48) and “wants our patience to be proven” by our readiness “to endure double hurt” this begins with my willingness to forgo not justice but vengeance and to “even pray to God continually on … behalf” of those who have done me wrong. Turning to the Gospel, this is exactly what we see in the parable. Continue reading