Bulletin: February 20, 2022
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
It's likely that some friends or followers of Jesus told him, from time to time, to "get real" when his teachings seemed too hard or impractical. John's Gospel, near the end of the Bread of Life discourse, reports that some disciples out and out turned away because it was too hard to continue following Jesus. When Jesus said to love our enemies, pray for those who hurt us, or do good for those who hate us, the response, "get real," wouldn't be surprising. And yet, the very life and witness of Jesus is filled with his prophetic examples of doing just that; of refusing to return harm for harm. The lives of the saints are likewise filled with such examples, especially those saints who were laborers in the field for justice and peace. Is this command of Jesus difficult? Yes. Is it impossible? No.
It could have come straight out of a Hollywood script: two enemies, former friends and admirers of each other now pitted against each other. So it is today with Saul and David. Saul had actually praised David for slaying Goliath, and rewarded him by placing him in charge of Israel's military force. David flourished, and was praised, admired for how clearly the hand of God was upon him. Of course, Saul became jealous, and soon hatched a plot to finish him off. In a turning of the tables, Saul actually becomes the vulnerable one, and David has more than one opportunity to kill him. But it is not a surprise ambush that keeps David from slaying Saul, but the realization that Saul is a meshiach (Messiah), God's anointed one, the first to bear this title in Israel. Twice David has an opportunity--the second time he even has a witness and accomplice--and yet he will not do what it seems like the script says he should.
Jesus is also a master of subverting our expectations of what the script is going to do. The scriptwriter we call Luke is even more detailed than Matthew in what "love your enemies" means. Luke spells out specific, active ways to counteract the deeds of those whom we would label "enemies." Beyond that, Luke's Jesus says not to lend merely the shirt off our back, but our coat as well; to lend money not only to those who can repay, but to those who can't. This is the script of God's Meshiach: do not perpetuate or escalate violence, but reply to it with love. What you think is sufficient generosity needs to be doubled, at the very least. Whenever it seems like the direction of the story needs to be changed--so that harm or sin or cruelty is overcome by love--change the story. Through God's goodness, we are free to change our story; through God's grace, we have Jesus to show us the way.