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Vengeance is not Sweet – Family Reflection Video

Vengeance is not Sweet – Family Reflection Video

Learn more about our faith  |  Healing the family

It is amazing how many films have been made about vengeance. The most successful story of long-drawn-out vengeance is that of The Count of Monte Cristo. It is the classic tale by French novelist Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) about Edmond Dantes, who spends years in prison unjustly but escapes to seek revenge on the enemies who framed him. Between 1934 and 1975, at least four versions were produced under the title The Count of Monte Cristo.


This theme of vengeance has been treated so often in cinema and literature – and so successfully in terms of financial profits – is, no doubt, because it appeals to our basic instincts.

The Oldest Law

The oldest written law in the world is the one cited by Jesus in the first verse of today’s gospel: The Law of the Talion. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” That law had appeared as long ago as the Code of Hammurabi in Babylon, over 2,000 years before Christ. It openly differentiated between rich and poor: it said if a “gentleman” sustained an injury, the same injury would be inflicted upon the perpetrator, but if a “worker” received an injury, he would receive only a small monetary payment.

Barbarous though it may seem, historically, the Law of the Talion was a giant humanitarian step upward. Before, when a member of one tribe injured a member of another, the entire tribe of the injured person tried to wreak vengeance on the one who caused the injury. Often that vengeance went much beyond the injury: A life for a scratch. Yet it’s been said that if people were to implement the rule of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” we’d all eventually be blind or toothless.

Jesus' Invitation

Vengeance is so natural, we think. But it is not; it is only spontaneous, instinctive, and mechanical. If it were natural, it would enhance our humanity. Each act of vengeance would make us more human. But that is not the case. Each act of vengeance makes us less open to a loving relationship with others. Therefore, Jesus is inviting us to become more and more human by transcending the automatic reflex of vengeance and living up to our eminent dignity as children of God.

A disciple of Christ must go a step further to be worthy of the name – turn the other cheek and generously give your cloak as well. A Christian is invited to go for a second mile. In a very humorous manner, Saint Paul would put it to the Romans as he tells them how to deal with their enemies in a Christian way: if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by so doing, you will pile up burning coals upon his head.

We pray that we are given the grace to prove ourselves to be faithful disciples of Jesus not only by passively refraining from retaliation but also by actively doing good to those who, by the standards of the world, do not deserve it. Let us walk a second mile, for that’s how Christianity flowers in the world.

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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.

Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.