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A short debate about whether we will actually turn the other cheek

3 min • Digitized on March 2, 2022

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 201
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


In the course of his long mission in the Chablais, he one day preached on that text which commands us to offer the right cheek to him who smites us on the left. As he came down from the pulpit he was accosted by a Protestant who asked him if he felt that he could practise what he had just preached, or whether he was not rather one of those who preach but do not practise.

The Saint replied:

My dear brother, I am but a weak man and beset by infirmities. At the same time, miserable though I feel myself to be, God teaches me what I ought to do. I cannot tell you what I should actually do, because though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.

At the same time we know, that while without grace we can do nothing, with its aid we can do everything; a reed in the hand of grace becomes a mighty staff that cannot be broken. If we are told to be willing to give our life itself in defence of our faith, how much more does it behove us to endure some small affront for the maintenance of charity!

Moreover, were I to be such a recreant to the grace of God as not to bear an insult of this kind patiently, let me remind you that the same Gospel which reproves those who preach but do not practise, warns us against following the example of such teachers, though it bids us do what they tell us to do.

“Yet,” resumed the other, “our Saviour never presented the other cheek to the servant of the High Priest who struck Him; on the contrary He resented the act.”

What! (cried the holy Bishop,) you place our Lord on a level with those who preach but do not practise! That is blasphemy! As for us, we entertain more reverent feelings towards that Model of all perfection. It is not for us to comment on the actions of Him who, as we firmly believe, could not act otherwise than most perfectly. Neither is it for us to dare to say: “Why hast Thou done thus?”

Yet we may well remember His zeal for the salvation of that impious man’s soul, and the remonstrances which He deigned to use in order to bring him to repentance. Nay, did He not offer not only His cheek to the smiter, but His whole sacred Body to the cruel scourging which covered Him with wounds from Head to Foot?

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