Years ago, there was a priest who was giving a retreat to inmates in a federal prison in the south. He spoke to them about Jackie Robinson, the first black athlete to play Major League Baseball. When Branch Rickey signed Robinson to a contract with the Dodgers in 1945, he told him, “You will have to take everything they dish out at you and never strike back.”
Rickey was right. On the field, pitchers brushed Robinson back with blazing fastballs and opposing fans and teams taunted him. Off the field, he was thrown out of hotels and restaurants where the rest of the team stayed and ate.
Through it all, Robinson kept his cool. He turned the other cheek. So did Branch Rickie, who was abused by people for signing Robinson. The priest ended the story by asking the prisoners, “Where do you think black athletes would be today had Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey not turned the other cheek?”
After the talk, a prisoner said to the priest, “That’s a nice story, Father, but why didn’t you tell the whole story? Why didn’t you tell why Rickey and Robinson turned the other cheek? It wasn’t for love of God. It was for love of money.
“Rickey turned the other cheek because he had signed Robinson and would make a fortune if he succeeded. Robinson turned the other cheek because if he succeeded, he would make a fortune, too.”
The prisoner was making the same point Jesus was making in today’s gospel. Worldly people work harder for worldly rewards that last only a few years than for heavenly rewards that will last forever.
Sincerely in Christ,