|The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary
First Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
Psalms 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13
First Corinthians 15:45-49
Very early in life, we learn some constant things; we call them “laws.” We learn that crying gets us everything, for a while. We learn about sharing with our siblings; obviously some are harder to learn than others. We learn about gravity by falling down or watching a glass break when we drop it. Gravity is a constant law and as we gain weight we learn even more about its constancy.
The readings for today speak to a kind of gravity or law within us by speaking to its opposite. With the arrival of Jesus, there is a “New Law” in town and it twists our natural gravitational inclinations away from ourselves and directs us towards others.
The First Reading from 1 Samuel sounds like something out of Harry Potter. David is playing Hide and Seek with Saul who wants to kill him. David and his faithful sidekick Abishai, discover Saul and his bodyguard Abner, sleeping. Abishai advises David that Saul should be thrust through, but David’s view is that Saul belongs to God as God’s anointed. David takes Saul’s spear and water jug and escapes across the valley. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? Then David gives Saul a wake-up call. He invites one of the solders to come and get the spear and jug, but also announces; “The Lord will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness.” David proclaims that he had Saul in his grasp, “I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.”
The Gospel is a continuation of Luke’s sermon on the Beatitudes. Jesus puts things rather directly and embarrassingly to us, He starts reversing our self-centered gravitational pull. We have heard these sayings before and can take them or leave them, it seems. He is serious and is still looking into the eyes of His newly called disciples.
In a way, it would be good if we had never heard these little sayings. Imagine you're hearing for the first time that you are to offer, not just turn, your other cheek when somebody slaps you. You are to not expect anything back when you lend. You are to have enemies, of course, but love them. You are to be merciful, stop condemning and you are to forgive so that you will be forgiven yourself. How are you doing in this little exam?
As we learned about gravity through our experiences more than other’s explanation, so with the Disciples, we are invited to live into a new law of respecting the Lord’s anointed. Who are the anointed? You are and your neighbor and your enemy and those you would rather judge, condemn, avoid, abandon and perhaps even harm. By nature we have this law inside us of categorizing or labeling, those we like, love, respect and those who don’t deserve our attention or touch. I grew up in one neighborhood and those kids in the next block were our enemies. Of course we didn’t know them, but we hated them, because, well, they smelled or were stupid or played funny games. These are good reasons for seven-year-olds, I guess, but that law of protection and selfishness has deep roots.
Nobody told me that when my mother put the frosting bowl down between my sister and me, that if I slap my sister on the cheek, she wouldn’t turn and offer me the other, she would run and complain to my mother. Nobody told me that I would get all the frosting, she would get none, and the licking I got would be worth the double victory. Nobody told me, I knew it by myself. The gravitational pull came with the umbilical chord.
So on what planet do we live? There is the one called Earth and the other Christ and they have opposing gravitational laws. Jesus looks lovingly, but directly into our eyes and offers us the invitation to live on earth, but less dragged down by its laws of greed, fear and neglect. The invitation is to a freer and more relational life, but we need God’s help to respond; our old ways are so familiar, comfortable and as easy as falling off a log. The words of David in the First Reading echo throughout our lives, “The Lord will reward each man (or woman) for his justice and faithfulness.”
“I will tell all your marvelous works.”
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