One day Mother Teresa encountered a child who was starving. She went to a bread shop and asked the owner if he would give the child some bread as she was hungry. The man was eating bread at the time and he spat in Mother Teresa’s face. Mother Teresa replied, “Thank you for your gift. Now would you please give this child some bread to eat.”
When we encounter violence, we usually respond in one of two ways. The first way is by counter-violence. The second way is acquiescence. However, there is another way as highlighted in the story above where we simply stand our grand. This way holds up a mirror to the perpetrator of the violence inviting them to change their behaviour.
This other way was very much characterised by Jesus in our Passion Story for this Palm Sunday. In the face of violence Jesus does not react by way of counter-violence nor does he acquiesce to it. This way is also captured in the words from the First Reading of the prophet Isaiah where he says, “For my part I made no resistance, neither did I turn away.”
In the scene of the garden of Gethsemane Jesus rejects the way of violence when one of the bystanders struck out at the high priest’s servant and cut off his ear. In the ensuing dialogues with the chief priests, the elders the following day and then with Pilate, Jesus stands his ground every time. I think having a mirror held up to him as to how he was behaving was the reason why Pilate became anxious to set him free.
If we truly wish to be Christian, we must speak and act like Jesus did. It is as simple and as challenging as that. What do we do when we encounter violence in our lives whether it be physical or verbal? Do we fight back or acquiesce? Jesus wants us to stand our ground. This is not easy. It takes a lot of courage and self-control. By standing our ground there is hope that the person causing the violence will be lured into a different spiritual space. Both counter-violence and acquiescence are not able to achieve this.