As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, "At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you." See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see--we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothin, and yet possessing everything.
Jesus said to his disciples,
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
Some of Paul's phrases echo his heroic endurance during his wandering ministry for the sake of the Gospel: "We are called imposters, and yet we are truthful; nobodies but in fact are well known; considered dead, yet here we are alive; punished, but not put to death; sorrowful, though always rejoicing; poor, yet enriching many; seeming to have nothing, yet everything is ours." It is clear how courageous he was in standing firm for the Gospel, not only against external threats and dangers but even in face of some temporary wavering by Peter himself, about the equal treatment of Gentile converts (Gal. 2:1-10). His unswerving obedience to the call he received from God eventually found him numbered among the pillars of the Church. He wrote: "poor, yet enriching many; called an imposter, yet truthful."
We are priveleged to have such witnesses within our family of faith, and thank God for their inspiration. Jesus' ideals in the Sermon on the Mount are exemplified for us in a dramatic way by Paul's apostolate, in the perseverance and huge level of generosity of spirit, going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, and sharing whatever he had with others. The lives of such saints demonstrate the hidden potential in each of us to be givers more than takers, up-builders rather than critics, contributors to love in our world.
In the gospel Jesus calls on his disciples not to repay evil with evil, but to respond to evil with goodness. The worst instinct in human nature is to respond in an evil way to goodness; the crucifixion of Jesus was an example of that instinct. The best instinct of human nature is to overcome evil with good. This in fact could be termed the divine instinct, God's instinct. It was the way of Jesus. He overcame the evil that was done to him with good. In the very moment when he was being violently rejected he revealed his love most fully. He lived and died to overcome evil with good. It is not easy to remain good in the face of evil, to remain loving in the face of hostility, to be faithful in the face of unfaithfulness, to be peacemakers in the face of violence done to us. We cannot live in this way drawing on our own strength and resources alone. We need God's strength, God's resources, God's Spirit, because such a way of life is the fruit of God's Spirit at work within us. In the first reading today Paul calls on us "not to neglect the grace of God you have received." God is always gracing us and if we rely on his grace we will be able to keep giving expression to that divine instinct of overcoming evil with good.