This morning Father H. gave us some interesting background on the story behind the story of “turn the other cheek.”
He explained that every culture has its own signals that are used to insult other people or so display superiority. In our culture, as he put it, we put up our hand to salute someone without using all our fingers. In Jesus’ time, if you wanted to insult someone, you would use your open right palm to slap someone in the face.
But if you wanted to show that you were ready to reconcile with someone, you would slap them, backhand, on the other cheek.
So Jesus’s urging his disciples to “turn the other cheek” was really urging them to always approach others with a spirit of reconciliation–to be ready to forgive. (And by the way, you were really putting someone on the spot with that attitude, because they would be shamed if they refused you that reconciliation). As Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”
I’m not always certain whether my kids are listening to the homily, but Middle Sister paid good attention today. When we were in the kitchen making lunch, Big Brother and I were teasing each other about something, and I pretended to swipe at his face with the back of my hand. Middle Sister said, “Mom, you used the wrong slap! You just told Big Brother that you want to be reconciliated!”