EMBRACING ADVERSITY: CULTIVATING LOVE, FAITH, AND PATIENCE IN CHALLENGING TIMES
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 97(98):1-4
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:38-42
Life is an unpredictable journey, filled with peaks and valleys, triumphs and trials. Adversity, in its various forms, can test our resilience, challenge our spirits, and leave us feeling overwhelmed. Yet, within the depths of hardship, lies an incredible opportunity for growth and transformation. It is in these challenging times that we have the chance to cultivate profound virtues: love, faith, and patience. When we choose to embrace adversity with these guiding principles, we unlock a path to greater understanding, personal development, and a profound sense of inner strength. Responding to adversity with love, faith, and patience is a profound and transformative approach that can have a profound impact on our lives and relationships. When faced with difficult circumstances or challenges, it is natural to feel a range of emotions such as fear, anger, or frustration. However, choosing to respond with love, faith, and patience can lead to greater understanding, growth, and positive outcomes. This lesson is what is mirrored in the readings of today.
Beginning with the First Reading (2 Corinthians 6:1-10), we hear Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians to receive God’s grace and not let it go to waste. He encourages them to endure hardships and challenges for the sake of the gospel and to remain steadfast in their faith, emphasizing the idea of persevering through difficult circumstances. Likewise, in the Gospel reading according to Matthew (5:38-42), we hear a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where He teaches about non-retaliation and loving one’s enemies. In this passage, Jesus challenges the conventional wisdom of “an eye for an eye” and encourages His followers to respond to evil or harm with love and forgiveness. He speaks of turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and giving to those in need, highlighting the importance of responding to adversity with a spirit of compassion and grace. It might interest us to note that the idea of turning the other cheek when slapped might be easily misunderstood and may lose its meaning in confronting adversities. How can we understand it better?
Ordinarily, if someone confronts you with a slap, that slap should land on your left cheek, especially if the person is a right-handed person. Jesus also lived in a right-handed culture where left hands were reserved only for unclean tasks. Therefore, it is understood that the person doing the hitting would use their right hand, and the only way to strike someone on the right cheek with their right hand is a backhanded slap. In other words, it would require striking with the back of one’s hand, and according to the Jewish concept, it inflicts more insult than pain. It was a normal way to reprimand someone over whom you had power (e.g. masters to slaves, Romans to Jews). To strike your equal in such a manner was socially and legally unacceptable, carrying with it a huge fine. Striking one’s equal must be a direct hit, not a backhanded slap, otherwise, it would be considered offensive. With this new understanding of the context Jesus was speaking in, picture the scenario with yourself as the oppressor. You are a wealthy, powerful person whose slave has displeased you in some way. You reprimand your slave with a backhanded slap. The response you expect is for the slave to cower, submit, and slink away. Instead, your slave defiantly turns their other cheek and challenges you to hit them again. What can you do? You would like to give your slave another backhanded slap to show them their place, but to do that you would have to use your left hand which would admit that your action is unclean because of the use of the left hand. Another option is to use your right hand and hit them on their left cheek directly (not a backhanded one) instead, but it would be embarrassing to hit your slave the way you should hit your equal. You’re confused. You don’t know what to do. Flustered, you could order the slave to be flogged, but the slave has already made their point. They have shown you that they are a human person with dignity and worth. You don’t own them, you cannot control them, and they do not submit to your rule. And so, Jesus’ instruction not to resist evil and to turn the other cheek transforms from an instruction to accept injustice into a challenge to resist systems of domination and oppression without the use of violence, but responding with love and patience. Rather than ignoring an evil situation and hoping it will go away, Jesus is telling his followers to find creative, active, and nonviolent ways to assert their humanity and God’s love in the world.
Dear friends in Christ, Responding to adversity with love, faith, and patience is not always easy. It requires intentional effort, self-reflection, and a willingness to let go of ego-driven responses. However, by embracing these virtues, we can transform adversity into an opportunity for personal growth, deeper connections, and spiritual development. It allows us to rise above our circumstances and cultivate a mindset rooted in compassion, resilience, and inner peace. Ultimately, responding to adversity with love, faith, and patience enables us to face life’s challenges with grace and emerge stronger, wiser, and more compassionate individuals. Today’s readings present a powerful message of strength and hope. They remind us that our journey of faith is not without challenges, but with God’s grace, we can overcome obstacles and find joy in the midst of trials. We are encouraged to persevere, knowing that the struggles we face are not in vain, but rather an opportunity for growth and spiritual maturation. As we navigate our own personal battles and strive to make a positive impact in the world around us, let us take to heart the lessons conveyed in these readings. Let us seize the day, embracing the grace of God and the power of His love. In doing so, we become living testimonies to the transformative power of faith, radiating the light of Christ to a world that desperately needs it. Let us be inspired to live out these teachings, to persevere through challenges, and to embody the love and mercy of our Creator. Together, let us embark on a journey of resilience and growth, as we learn to navigate life’s challenges with grace and emerge victorious on the other side.
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© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo.
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?