Sunday, February 18, 2007

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
C cycle

Reading 1. 1 Samuel 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
Reading II. I Corinthians 15: 45-49
Gospel. Luke 6: 27-38 (love your enemies)

Today's gospel continues St. Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount which we began last week. Here we encounter Jesus's famous command to "love your enemies." Perhaps this is the reason the Church gives us the story of David and King Saul in today's first reading.

The movies have distorted our vision of Bible history. In most Hollywood biblical epics the characters all look so noble. They wear flowing robes or tunics, live in gorgeous palaces, and speak with beautiful English accents. For today's episode, set as it is in the desert of Ziph, it would be better if we tried to imagine ourselves in an American western or in one of the Italian Spaghetti westerns.
King Saul, the King or Chief of the Israeli tribe, has led his warriors out into the desert in pursuit of the upstart warrior, David. The old king is envious of David's victories in battle and his growing popularity within the tribe and he has set out to capture and kill him. After Saul and his men pitch camp for the night, David and his right hand man, Abishai, evade the sentries and enter the Israeli camp. The two find Saul sleeping and Abishai urges David to take advantage of the opportunity, "Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear..."

Now all you have to do is glance through the rest of the Book of Samuel to see that David is no pacifist. He is a warrior who never shrinks from killing. Yet in this case he draws back--"for who can lay hands on the Lord's anointed and remain unpunished." Anointing with holy oils was the sign that the King had been chosen by God, that the King was in fact God's representative on earth. David seems motivated here more by fear of the Lord than by love of his enemy.

Let's turn now to the gospel passage where Jesus is once again being so impractical. How unnatural He sounds. Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, give your tunic as well as your cloak, do not demand repayment, lend money without expecting repayment.

But is it so impractical? Let's look at some examples from our own daily life especially since we are about to enter the season of Lent. Maybe the Sermon on the Mount contains some things that we can do right now. First, what about love our enemies? Now we don't have to look to Iraq or Afghanistant to find enemies. Our enemies are right here in our midst. Children, how many times have you fought with your own brother or sister in the last week? How many fights have you had about who sits where in the family car?

It's good to give up candy for Lent but it would be even better to give up selfishness and share with your brothers and sisters. As we get older this advice is even more important.

Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.

In fact what family could function well unless if follows this advice. Husbands and wives who hold anything back in their relationship are doomed to failure. Is this the reason why so many marriages fail today? For Lent let's resolve to intensify our love. Let's bring the spirit of St. Valentine's day into Lent.

In athletics how often do we read of selfish stars who refuse to help their less talented teammates. This selfishness starts even in little league. When I was a softball coach I learned that sooner or later the ball would be hit to the worst fielder on the team and usually at a crucial time. The teammate that we fail to help could cost us a championship.

Really, isn't our Lord saying that hatred and anger hurt us more than the people we hate. I knew a man who never forgave his sister for failing to pay back a small debt. Who was hurt? What good did his grudge do for him? How many of us have not spoken with our own brothers and sisters for years over some trivial slight? The best thing that we could do this Lenten season would be to get on the phone and just say hello.

Our Lord promises us that if we act miserably, we will be miserable. If we act generously, we will become generous. He has said that His yoke is easy and His burden light. Look how he let's us off the hook and opens up the way to happiness:

Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down,
and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.

He isn't naive or impractical. He knew that workers were paid in those days by filling their aprons with grain. Bosses liked to get away with filling the aprons loosely because packing it down and shaking the air out would benefit the workers.

As St. Paul says in the second reading, we all bear the image of the earthly Adam, but our Lord Himself is the heavenly Adam and if we choose, we shall also bear His image. Let's make sure that this Lent we do not take the spear and nail the Lord's Anointed One to the Cross.

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