The readings today really do pull us way out of our comfort zones!
In the reading from Samuel, we have the story from the early days of David. A time before he has become King. He has been serving Saul who was first to unite the people of Israel and begin to mold them into a nation. But God, through the prophet Elijah, has rejected Saul as the king and has favored David. Saul is not planning to go peacefully into retirement and has begun to hunt David down even though David has continued to be faithful in his service to Saul. During Saul’s hunt to capture David we have this story about David’s nobility of character. During the night, David comes upon Saul asleep. David has every advantage even to having Saul’s spear handy for his use. However, David remains faithful to Saul by letting him live. He does let Saul know of his narrow escape by asking Saul to send a servant to him so that he can return Saul’s spear. An embarrassing moment for Saul, but a revealing glimpse into the character of David…and into the character of God.
And then, of course, there’s this famous Gospel passage. Of all the teachings of Jesus, these are among the most challenging: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
And the list goes on: But rather, love your enemies and do good to them; …lend expecting nothing back…. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Stop judging…. Stop Condemning…. Forgive…. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.
Wow! Jesus has just moved the bar not just higher but, humanly speaking, out of reach!! St Paul, in our second reading, pulls us back to earth with the reminder that we also have a spirit filled life given us by Christ. It is through Christ that this way of loving becomes a possibility for us.
What do you think? Is Jesus just making things impossible for us or is he inviting us into a deeper way to love? His way, God’s way.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of retreats at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.