We are positioning ourselves for a proper experience of that “joyful season of Lent” which begins this coming Wednesday. God is always laboring upon creation, our creation, to bring us more and more to life.
We can pray these days as we journey toward the Eucharistic Table and Community, to be available to all the little and not-so-little ways God offers us new experiences of just what the grace-life is all about. All of life is made up of thousands of invitations to us. From the rising of the sun to its setting, seconds are more than time, minutes are miracles asking us to be awake and not be blinded by what appears to be. We can pray for the open-eye-edness which renders us at times speechless as at the Eucharist.
In our First Reading, we have the second of two similar narratives about David’s not killing King Saul. They are serious, but have a tinge of humor in them as well. In Chapter 24 in 1 Samuel, we read of a great human situation. It is almost out of Harry Potter. In this reading from Chapter 26 David had Saul “dead” to rights and showed great reverence by allowing Saul to live. In both stories David wanted Saul to know that he, David, was not jealous, or trying to upstage his king, the “anointed of the Lord”.
The compassion or mercy or forgiveness is more than meets the ear here. The judicial system in our countries as within ourselves as well, may find various reasons to extend freedom to someone. That is not what is going on here. David is more than making a judicial decision. God has chosen Saul as King and so it is God that is reverenced through David’s allowing Saul to go free and continue his being king.
Why is Saul chasing David to kill him? David has slain Goliath and is celebrated for his great military deeds. Saul sees the people singing that while he has killed some of their enemies, David has killed ten times that number. Saul is jealous and fearful that David will become king. In an earlier part of this story, Saul had thrown his spear at David while David was playing the harp; he missed, but David had to flee. Saul has been searching all around for David, but in these readings, we hear David finding Saul and showing Saul a new form of mercy. What seems to be mercy is rather a reverence for God Who anointed Saul as king of God’s people, Israel.
The Gospel is a section from a larger chapter in which Jesus has appointed His closest followers, the Twelve. Last week we heard, and this week, we hear a direct teaching about the conduct they are to live as His companions. Jesus gets quite particular and personal. What we do not hear is the parable of this chapter. Jesus is telling them to listen well and act accordingly, lest they be as blind as the people they will be leading and both will fall into the pit. So they have their code of conduct, but there is something else hidden within these expectations.
To understand these demands about lending without expectation of repayment, praying and blessing those who hate you, loving your enemies, and the others, we must read the ending. God is compassionate in all these ways. God gives without expectation of being given thanks in return. God turns the other cheek when slapped. God loves those who are enemies. God blesses those who reject Love. We are invited not to judge, because God does not judge. We are not to condemn, because God does not condemn.
The listening disciples are told at the end of this long instruction that they are building their foundation on rock and that only sound trees produce good fruit. One can appreciate a good tree by its good fruit, but the fruit is produced from the interior of the tree. What we can hear is all about external actions such as lending, forgiving, blessings and enduring humiliations. What deeper meaning we are moved to listen to and hear, is the more interior sense. God by being Infinite Love is all of these and our personal actions coming from our converted hearts, will in turn reveal the interior nature of God as Love. The early disciples were to present the true image of the One and True God by accepting God as love, accepting God’s compassionate love for them as their interior and then fruit-it-out in the orchard of life.
These instructions are a continuation of Luke’s Beatitudes and are invitations to try to live remembering that same divine compassion when we fail. God lends to us, blesses us, forgives us and always desires us to come to life and give that life as our way of revealing the goodness of God. What better way is there to live? In reading these, one might make a little score card and give oneself a grade. Don’t do that! That would mean you did not listen and hear and take to heart Jesus’ great desires for us and you would be too concerned about your score. God loves us so much as to send Jesus as Lord and not as ruler.
“I will tell all your marvelous works. I will rejoice and be glad in you, and sing to your name, Most High.” Ps. 9, 2-3
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