Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Scripture readings have a message very clear but very difficult for us. We are to be generous and compassionate to all -even to our enemies! In the 1st reading, David had an opportunity to slay his pursuer, king Saul, yet he would not kill the sleeping king because Saul had been anointed by God. Instead, David takes the king’s spear and water jug -Saul’s means of defense and survival- as evidence that Saul had indeed been at his mercy.
The Gospel continues the Sermon on the Plain, whose introduction was read last Sunday. Jesus continues the exposition of the fundamental principles on which his community is based. Jesus announces a new order, the order of mutual love, as the basic foundation of the Christian way of life. The evangelist explains what the Lord understands by love. Love is doing good to one’s enemy, the enemy being someone who wants and seeks my own downfall in one way or another. Love is blessing those who curse me, blessing understood as a prayer for God’s benefits, graces and gifts upon that particular person, in reciprocity for the expressions in which he wishes me misfortune of every kind. Love is prayer for those who treat me badly.
As a guideline of Christian life, love still has many other applications, in St. Luke’s perspective. Jesus urges his followers not to return wickedness with wickedness. The principle is exemplified in two details: in turning the other cheek when somedy hits you, and in giving up your shirt when your overcoat has already been taken away from you. In other words, give up your rights rather than stand up to them.
The spiritual attitude that Jesus requires here from his followers is not weakness or degradation of human dignity. Love requires the disciples to be unlimited in their patience, when their personal belongings are utilized by others without any retribution or compensation. As an encouragement for such an attitude, a Golden Rule is given: Treat others as you would like to be treated. If there is to be a difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, it must show in practical deeds of greater love and sacrifice. The reason for such greater love is, on the one hand, the great retribution that is in store for those who show that kind of love and, on the other, the fact that this is the rule of God’s own actuation, since he is immeasurably good even with ungrateful and evil men.
The idea of compassion leads to another example of Christian love: to abstain from judging and condemning. God is compassionate; he does not judge and condemn, and a Christian is supposed to do likewise. Compassion assumes that rain and sun come to just and unjust; and that each of us is a sinner. We all need to be judged by God’s merciful justice and not by the merciless vengeance of our peers. We must extend to others what we ourselves most need. Strictly speaking, man’s forgiveness does not imply God to be forgiving. Still, the teaching of St. Luke is clear: the way we treat others will be a clear indication of how God will deal with us. The yardstick we use to deal with others, God will use it to deal with us. Compassion is more than just a passing feeling. It is a profound commitment to act as God acts towards us.
What Jesus demands from his disciples is contrary to reason, common sense, and our deepest feelings: What he requires of us is real heroism. Christianity is not supposed to be easy. It is a demanding religion that is intended to bring out the highest qualities of the human spirit, as elevated to the supernatural order and assisted by God’s grace. The teaching of Jesus in today’s Gospel, from a human point of view, is almost impossible! In fact, it is only by God’s grace that we can live Christian life.