WHAT COMES OUT OF US WHEN WE ARE OFFENDED?
HOMILY FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C. Readings: 1 Samuel 26:2.7-9.12-13.22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 and Luke 6:27-38.
A friend shared with me a message titled, “This one is juicy.” It is about a conversation of a brother in a conference who asked, “If an orange is squeezed, what comes out of it?” Expectedly, orange juice comes out. Furthermore, he asked, why not apple juice, grape juice, lemon or other fruit juice? In response he was told, “Because it is orange, it has orange juice inside of it.” Supposedly we are squeezed, what comes out of us? What is inside us? Is it hatred, malice, anger, unforgiveness and other vices? Or is it compassion, love and mercy? Today’s liturgy reminds us of these essential virtues expected of us each time we are squeezed by our families, friends and enemies, circumstances and situations around us.
The first reading presents to us the dramatic event of Saul and David. David had a good opportunity to destroy Saul and Abner (the commander of Saul’s army) who had gone after him with three thousand chosen men of Israel to the wilderness of Ziph. David came at night and found them sleeping. At this point, Abishai (David’s assistant) said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day; now therefore, let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice” (v. 8). Abishai made it easy for David to strike at once with his spear so that David could say to himself and everyone else “I did not kill Saul.” David’s response instead expressed what was inside of him that had to come out of him after being squeezed by Saul’s attempt to kill him on two occasions (1Sam 18: 11; 19:10). David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can put forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” (v.9).
Saul sought a chance to kill David but David escaped and David had the chance to kill Saul, but what came out of David was love, compassion and mercy. These virtues had been in him even as a young shepherd. He did not kill Saul but he did take the spear and the jug of water as evidence that he had the opportunity to do so. We must learn from David never to be influenced by ‘Abishai’ in our lives to do evil, which may come to us as peer-pressure or even from family and friends. We too must learn from David to leave vengeance for God and not to capitalize on every opportunity we have to deal with our enemies. It is not a Christian spirit. No matter how hard it appears, forgiveness heals; living with an unforgiving spirit is like you drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.
Christ in the Gospel draws our attention to forgiveness by telling us to be merciful as our Father is merciful. He said to His disciples, “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (vv.27-28). Christ gives us the principle to love our enemies from the heart (which otherwise could be the citadel of hatred), and then, from our words and actions. This is one of Christ’s difficult teachings for many Christians. Humanly speaking, forgiveness is difficult and when same offender offends us again, it triggers older and deeper pains in us. At this point, forgiveness demands love and sacrifice.
With the principle to love our enemies having been taught us by Christ, we are not to wait to see what the other person will do before we decide on what to do. We are to seize the opportunity of the wrong done to us by loving, doing good, blessing and praying for our enemies. This behavior might seem weak in the face of hatred and violence, but Jesus transformed them through the demonstration he made on the cross. He did not curse His enemies who squeezed Him but prayed for their forgiveness. He did not only preach to His disciples to offer another cheek to those who strike the other, but he lived it out. Hence, like David, when Christ was squeezed on the cross, what came out of Him was forgiveness, love and compassion. He urges us to do the same. The sacrificial aspect comes in when we love and forgive without a reciprocal expectation.
St. Paul in the second reading speaks of the first and last Adam, representing the man of dust and the man of heaven, and urges us to be like the man of heaven. Invariably, it reminds us that to err is human and to forgive is divine. Each time we forgive, we are like God of whom forgiveness is embedded in His nature. Some of us still need more practice on how to genuinely love especially our friends and families. The teachings of Christ today to love, forgive and pray for our enemies challenge us to do more, to love more.
Dear Friends in Christ, people may hurt us and probably leave us with lifetime scars. In such moments when it seems too hard to forgive, let us recall and take a cue from the scars of Christ which are evergreen in our hearts in forgiving those who have offended us. Each time life situations squeeze us, let us produce juicy fruits such as love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. For those we have offended, let us seek for reconciliation and pardon from them and through the sacrament of penance where our sins are forgiven and as sinners we are restored to grace. This commandment of Christ to love our enemies replaces the golden rule of “Do to no one what you would not want done to you.”
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ