Sunday, February 17, 2019

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

 
CCC 210-211: God of mercy
CCC 1825, 1935, 1968, 2303, 2647, 2842-2845: Forgiveness of enemies
CCC 359, 504: Christ as the New Adam

“Saul and David” Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, c. 1655
 
 
First Reading: [4]
 
In those days, Saul went down to the desert of Ziph
with three thousand picked men of Israel,
to search for David in the desert of Ziph.
So David and Abishai went among Saul’s soldiers by night
and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade,
with his spear thrust into the ground at his head
and Abner and his men sleeping around him.
 
Abishai whispered to David:
“God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day.
Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear;
I will not need a second thrust!”
But David said to Abishai, “Do not harm him,
for who can lay hands on the LORD’s anointed and remain unpunished?”
So David took the spear and the water jug from their place at Saul’s head,
and they got away without anyone’s seeing or knowing or awakening.
All remained asleep,
because the LORD had put them into a deep slumber.
 
Going across to an opposite slope,
David stood on a remote hilltop
at a great distance from Abner, son of Ner, and the troops.
He said: “Here is the king’s spear.
Let an attendant come over to get it.
The LORD will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness.
Today, though the LORD delivered you into my grasp,
I would not harm the LORD’S anointed.”
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This passage depicts the last meeting between King Saul and David, his ultimate successor. David’s king-like character is shown here as he prevents Abishai, a rather violent person (2 Samuel 19:22) and a son of David’s sister (see 1 Chronicles 2:16), from killing Saul as he slept. This encounter shows not only the positive trait of mercy in David, but also God’s favor on him as Abner, Saul’s body guard, and the king are put into a deep sleep, presumably by God. This refusal on the part of David to harm “the LORD’s anointed” echoes the his earlier statement in chapter 24 (1 Samuel 24; 7).
 
“The text once again shows David’s compassion and mercy (‘the Lord gave you into my hand today…’: v. 23); we can see in him the future king, because mercy is a perfection proper to God and therefore a virtue to be expected of any representative of his and of everyone who wants to be like God (cf. Luke 6:36).” [5]
 
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Responsorial Psalm:
 
R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.
 
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
 
He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
 
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
 
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
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Psalm 103 is a hymn of praise (and thanksgiving). It is a simple and beautiful reaction to God’s goodness. Remembering God’s promise of mercy for the innocent, these strophes praise God for his compassion and give thanks for his salvation.
 
CCC: Ps 103 304
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Reading 2:
 
Brothers and sisters:
It is written, The first man, Adam, became a living being,
the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
But the spiritual was not first;
rather the natural and then the spiritual.
The first man was from the earth, earthly;
the second man, from heaven.
As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly,
and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.
Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one,
we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.
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Commentary on 1 Cor 15:45-49
 
St. Paul uses the analogy of the creation of the first earthly being Adam, and compares that physical form to the first born of the dead in Christ who had both earthly form and became the “New Adam” in the resurrection.
 
St. Paul is eloquent in describing the difference from the earthly form and the resurrected body. Where the earthly form may be flawed, the spiritual body in the resurrection will be perfect. He envisions a resurrected body with the qualities of glory, power, and spirituality which is a creation in God’s heavenly image.  “The contrast between Adam and Christ shows that by nature we get a body from Adam that is physical, earthly, and mortal; and by grace we expect a body from Christ that is spiritual, heavenly, and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).  Paul draws on Genesis 2:7 to hint that Adam’s creation bears a certain likeness to Christ’s Resurrection.  Just as Adam’s body was raised from the earth by the breath of natural life, so Christ’s body was raised from the earth by the Spirit of supernatural life.  It is this life-giving Spirit, now channeled to the world through the sacrament of Christ’s risen humanity, that will raise our bodies also (Romans 8:11).” [6]

CCC: 1 Cor 15:44-45 
364; 1 Cor 15:44 999, 1017; 1 Cor 15:45 411, 504; 1 Cor 15:47 504
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Gospel:
 
Jesus said to his disciples:
"To you who hear I say,
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.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.
If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners,
and get back the same amount.
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
"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.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you."
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Commentary on Lk 6:27-38
 
This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel continues the Sermon on the Plain. In this section, Jesus extends the commandment to love one’s neighbor to include one’s enemy, breaking new ground in the interpretation of Mosaic Law. What follows is an extension of each of the laws governing hospitality and continues by extending even the judicial laws that govern dispute resolution. In the conclusion of this section, the Lord exhorts the disciples to embrace forgiveness, saying, “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.
 
CCC: Lk 6:28 1669; Lk 6:31 1789, 1970; Lk 6:36 1458, 2842
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Reflection:
 
There are times when most Christians wish that God had created us without free will; that he had given us a perfect sense of obedience the way the angels were created.  If that were the case, there would be no crime, no want, and no war.  Why? Because every person would love God and obedience to God’s law would dominate their will.  Such a world, however, would not be the paradise we might imagine.  Rather, it would be like a slave camp, every person doing what the must do with no sense of freedom of thought.
 
It is for this purpose that the author of 1 Samuel wrote about the virtue of mercy so eloquently expressed by David.  David, Saul, his arch enemy and would-be assassin, was laying asleep at his feet. He only needed to accept his servants offer to kill Saul and that danger and his persecution would end.  Yet King Saul was anointed by God and David would not betray his God through disobedience.  We should be mindful of the quote from the Navarre Commentary on this passage, which in turn points to our Gospel: “because mercy is a perfection proper to God and therefore a virtue to be expected of any representative of his and of everyone who wants to be like God.”
 
If we were created without free will, the Lord would not have found it necessary to clarify the words of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and Leviticus 19:18  which were combined to create his Great Commandment: Love God and love others. And this is exactly what he does in Luke’s account of his “Sermon on the Plain.” We are reminded that we must not only love those who love us, but love those who hate us.  We must not only be generous to those who would reciprocate, and be generous to us, but give freely to those from whom we should expect no repayment.
 
This is the great challenge of discipleship.  Oh, we may find it easy to be virtuous to the poor whom we do not know personally, or charitable to organizations that serve them.  But what about the son in-law who beats your daughter, or the neighbor who screams obscenities at your children?  Where is your Christian love when these kinds of personal attacks occur? And I don’t think I have to mention the political divisions that are common now.  Where is our love for those who oppose our views?
 
The Lords words need to strike a chord within our hearts today.  We were not created with absolute obedience to God, but our Savior expects us to develop that attitude of our own free will.
 
Pax
 

[1] Catechism links are taken from the Homiletic Directory, published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014.
[2] The picture is “Saul and David” Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, c. 1655.
[4] The readings are taken from the New American Bible, with the exception of the psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This republication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[5] The Navarre Bible: “Joshua-Kings”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2003, p. 301
[6] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. p. 308.