7 Sunday of the Year C
1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1Cor 15:45-49; Lk 6:27-38
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
According to human tendency, those who do us a favor, we return them a favor, those who hate us, we hate them back, those who curse us, and we curse them back. The law of justice in the Old Testament is also based on this human tendency: a broken limb for a broken limb, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Lv 24:20). That means whoever plucks out our eye, we have the right to pluck out his eye, whoever breaks our tooth, and you have the right to break his. The same is applied for the law of justice in society today. An offender of the law is to be sentenced depending on the nature and degree of his offense.
Therefore, the teaching of Jesus in today’s Gospel might become a laughing-stock in the secular world, in a society that has to struggle for survival. How can people love their enemies? How can people turn their right cheek after their left cheek has been slapped? Who is so foolish to let another take his cloak after his tunic has been taken? Who is so careless not to demand what has been taken.
In our consuming society where people have to struggle for survival, the principle of Jesus’ disinterested love seems to be unrealistic, far from reality. Yet, Jesus has come to reject the law of relation, and teach us the law of mercy and forgiveness and love. If we only think of gain and repayment, then that is a matter of exchange and commerce. It has nothing to do with Christian love and charity. In today’s Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples: If you love those who love you, do good to those who do good to you, lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you (Lk 6:32-34). Jesus also told them to love their enemies, to do good to them, and not to expect anything back when they lend (Lk 6:35). King David as we learn from the Book of Samuel today had an opportunity to kill his rival enemy King Saul in his sleep, because Saul planned to take David’s life due to his jealousy of David’s success in battlefield.
On David’s return after his victory over the Philistines, women came out all over Israel, playing tambourines and sistrums, and singing joyfully: Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands (1 Sm 18:7). According to the song, King Saul has slain only one thousand enemies, and David has slain ten times more enemies. That made King Saul angry, resentful of the song and jealous of David.
However, David refused to take revenge on Saul’s life. By sparing King Saul’s life, God forgave David his sin of adultery with Uriah’s wife and forgave David’s sin of murder of Uriah in the front line of battle. To love our enemies, according to Jesus’ teaching, does not mean we have to love them with the same affectionate feelings we have for our relatives and friends because the two relationships are on the different levels.
However, we have to make a decision not to hate our enemies and in addition, we have to pray for their conversion of heart and for their salvation of soul. Jesus told us: Stop judging and you will not be judged (Lk 6:37). Today we need to realize judgment is God’s right, and only God can judge justly, for God knows man’s secret thought and intention. Did we ever realize that we were wrong in our judgment of others after some verification of it? When there is no sufficient evidence, we should learn to give people ‘the benefit of the doubt’. A certain person complained to another that after mass he greeted a priest, and did not get a response from the priest.
Actually the priest did not remember and was not aware that when the certain person had greeted him. After mass, when parishioners rushed home and when the priest was greeting one parishioner, it was difficult to hear another parishioner. Even in the civil court, with defense lawyers for the offender, the judge and the jury are also erroneous. According to the human right association in the US from 1900 to 1992, 25 persons were executed wrongly because the court sentenced them by mistake, and 318 persons were jailed because the court was wrong. How is about the court of conscience? Before our court of conscience, how often did we condemn others without proof.
Worse than that, we condemned a person as bad instead of condemning his bad action. A bad action might occur only once due to his/her problem: psychological, mental, and physical. We condemned a person based on a few words of his/her or one of his/her actions instead of his/her total self and his/her entire life.
We do not know all the internal and external factors, which have influenced a person’s word and action at a particular time and in a particular circumstance. For instance, a kind and good person can say or does something that hurt others’ feelings when he/she suffers physically and emotionally. A kind and gentleperson can become irritable if his kidney does not function well.
A person afflicted with diabetes can say or does something that might hurt even his or her spouse when his/her sugar level goes up because he/she forgot to take his/ her insulin.
Jesus’ law of mercy, kindness, forgiveness and love teaches us to avoid criticism and judgment. However, in our daily life, we still criticize and judge. So perhaps we should find out reasons why we still criticize and judge without proof. To find out those reasons for criticism and judgment without proof is an initial step for cure. The reason for our criticism and judgment is perhaps to cover up our mistakes and failures or to divert others from their intended direction toward ourselves. In this case, criticism and judgment can be a form of self-defense.
Jesus has come to teach us the law of mercy and forgiveness. To treat others mercifully, as Jesus taught is a rule to measure our relationship with God and a rule to measure our spiritual life. We cannot become Jesus’ true disciples if we disregard his teachings on mercy and forgiveness, if Jesus’ law of mercy and forgiveness has nothing to do with our daily life.
Prayer for being compassionate and forgiving:
Oh, Lord our God!
You are God of compassion and forgiveness.
Your way is different from our human way.
When man sinned, you did not abandoned him,
but sent you are only begotten Son to save humankind.
Give me a spirit of generosity
so that I may give those who have offended me
‘the benefit of the doubt’.
Teach me to be merciful, forgiving and compassionate
so that I may be treated the same. Amen.
John Tran Bình Trong