IS JESUS REALLY SETTING THE WORLD ON FIRE?
Readings: 1st- Jer. 38:4-6, 8-10; 2nd- Heb. 12:1-4; Gospel- Lk. 12:49-53
The gospel of today presents a scary side of Jesus’ mission as he declares, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk. 12:49). What exactly does Jesus mean? Isn’t Satan identified with hell-fire? Is Jesus signifying a different fire here?
Fire is defined as a chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and sometimes causing destruction. That means that the fire that Jesus speaks about will produce similar elements such as heat, light, and perhaps cause destruction. Jesus speaks of the baptism with which he must be baptized, and which produces anguish in him. That’s his passion, suffering, and death. It is a form of baptism, an immersion. Often, we describe an experience of suffering as “baptism of fire”. Jesus’ journey to Calvary was a form of “baptism of fire.” His passing from death to life will also set the world on fire, the fire that purifies and separates but also destroys.
Jesus’ fire will cause family division in one sense. Those who do not believe in God will always oppose believers in that family. Those who see God as an obstacle will always feel uncomfortable. The fire of the Holy Spirit will in turn strengthen those who profess their faith in Christ. Resistance and opposition characterize are trials against faith. Jesus declares that a household will divide: three against two and two against three; father against son and son against father, mother and daughter against each other, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law against each other. By this, Jesus warns against compromise and lukewarm attitude to faith. The light of faith will illumine and purify on another end. Its fire will also frighten, destroy and consume those who stand in the way of the gospel.
The prophet Jeremiah reinforced this message in the first reading. In the 7th Century, when the King Zedekiah and the princes of the kingdom failed to defend truth and justice, the prophet set the entire kingdom on spiritual fire. Jeremiah proclaimed a message that enraged the king and his princes. Contrary to their expectations, Jeremiah had announced that the city would be overrun by the king and that Babylon would capture it in the process. His message conflicted with the military strategy put in place by the princes. Seen as sabotage, the princes set the prophet Jeremiah up before the king. They accused Jeremiah of demoralizing the soldiers and the people. The king succumbed to their conspiracy and had Jeremiah cast into the cistern. Jeremiah is humiliated and shamed but not discouraged.
A foreign court official named Ebed-melech warned the king against Jeremiah’s torture and requested that he be freed from the muddy cistern. The weak and unstable king Zedekiah agreed. Jeremiah’s experience is also a form of “baptism by fire.” Jeremiah faced persecution. He’s thrown into a cistern with mud. He was purified in the process. King Zedekiah, on the other hand, is a symbol of weakness to be destroyed by fire on the last day.
The Hebrews author invites us to persevere in running the race that lies before us, the race of faith. He admonishes us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus’ example is that he endured the cross focusing on the joy that lay ahead. The invitation is therefore to shun sin and to keep Jesus in view all the time. We are invited to be courageous and steadfast in our struggle to do good. The writer concludes, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb. 12:4). Isn’t that an invitation to our baptism of fire?
What strikes me is the positive power of the fire that Jesus has come to ignite. His fire cleanses the heart ready to convert. It strengthens the weary hand. It supports the troubled soul. But this fire burns any obstacle on the way of the gospel message. It consumes those caught in the darkness of evil and iniquity. I give you an example: Put a Christian music, a praise and worship song in the room of an unbeliever. Let he music play on and on for a while. The person becomes restless. The song itches her/him. The fire in that music sets the unbeliever ablaze. The kingdom of darkness is miserable by the presence of Light. In the gospel we read, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (Jn. 1:4-5).
Any family that houses good and evil would always experience conflict. Light and darkness do not stay together. Truth and falsehood do not stay together. Love and hatred do not stay together. Peace and violence do not stay together. However, Jesus encourages us, “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name, who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself” (Jn. 1:13).
To the answer whether Jesus is setting the world on fire, the answer is yes and no. He is setting the world on fire of God’s love, fire of the Holy Spirit to enkindle the hearts of believers. He is setting the world on fire to be purified and sanctified from sin and shame. Jesus is also setting the world on fire to destroy the powers of darkness. He is setting the world on fire to separate the good from the bad, the kind-hearted from the wicked. That’s how the household of five will be divided three against two, two against three. To be purified by this fire, you must be ready to undergo the baptism of fire just like Jeremiah in the Old Testament reading of today.
May the Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored and glorified at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even till the end of time. Amen.
ABRAHAM’S MODULE: THE RISK OF FAITH
Readings: 1st- Wis. 18:6-9; 2nd- Heb. 11:1-2, 8-19; Gospel- Lk. 12:32-48
Our faith journey begins at baptism when we become immersed in the life of Christ, what I see as eternity-driven risk. We rely on only on the Supernatural power. We depart on this journey before asking about the correctness of our maps. We travel with no GPS, yet knowing that we’ll get to the destination. The readings of today recount the story of the Old Testament forebears.
The first reading talks about that night of the Passover. The Israelites enter into covenant with God and recognize with sure knowledge, that the oaths they have taken produces in them courage to adhere to God’s commandments. They believe in God’s promise, God fights on their behalf, eliminates their foes and stands firmly with them. They in turn offer sacrifice to God as a sign of the covenant.
Abraham is presented as a big product of the covenant. He represents faith that is both courageous and generous. In the Letter to the Hebrews, faith is given several definitions. It is the realization of the things hoped for. That means, the person who has faith lives in hope beyond the immediate. That expectation is that God who is the reason for believing will fulfill what is hoped for, that which is unseen. Hence, the risk of faith. Hebrews presents faith as “evidence of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1) things hidden in God, revealed only in Christ Jesus.
Abraham accepts God’s will through courageous and generous openness. His actions are guided by faith- he leaves his place to an unknown destination; dwells in foreign land for years; receives the promise to be father of multitude of nations, accepts the promise to be a father at a humanly impossible child-bearing age with his wife Sarah; then offers to sacrifice his only son Isaac in response to God’s request. He stands as a model, believing absolutely in “things not seen.”
In Abraham, faith takes the meaning of trust, assurance, confidence, faithfulness, expectation, heroic courage, and above all, relationship. Abraham enters into a relationship with God all through his life, an invitation which we receive at baptism. Saint Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).I
Does faith take us through a difficult journey? The answer is yes. Faith is tough and challenging. It involves risk. Faith puts our patience to the test, stretches us in ways near breakage. At a recent funeral of an only son of a woman who had earlier lost her only daughter, this mother said to me, “Father, why does this happen? I have only two children. I buried my only daughter two years ago, now I’m burying my son. Why wouldn’t God let my children bury me?” At another funeral, having committed her mother to the earth, the young daughter approached me and said, “Are you sure I will see my mom in heaven the same way she was on earth, same body, same beauty? Just yesterday, I called my sister who lost her 21 years old son in May. The reason why I called was because my siblings whispered to me that she’s been crying for the past week. We started talking then she said to me, “But why would God give me this kind of temptation? It is becoming more real to me now that I have lost Ihiechi. Father, it is getting tougher for me.” Yes, faith can get tough. But those are questions which I have not exact answers to. None of us has answers to all the things that happen to us. We can only believe.
Abraham serves as an example. Hus module reminds us that we are dealing with God. The Hebrew writer says, “Now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.” And the reward is, “Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” That’s access to faith which we have following the module of Abraham. The reward of faith from Abraham extends to us through baptism. Saint Paul writes, “The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom. 4:22-23).
In today’s gospel, Christ demands that we be vigilant. He says, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Lk. 12:48). Faith entrusts much to us by baptism. It makes us disciples of Jesus. It invites us to vigilance and heroic courage. Thus Christ says, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” ((Lk. 12:32). That kingdom is what Abraham and his descendants looked forward to. To possess that kingdom, we must be vigilant in faith.
The Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Lawrence the Martyr on August 10th. Saint Lawrence was a deacon in the 3rd centurywho gave generously to the point of sacrificing his life. To those who burnt him in fire he uttered these words, “I’m done on this side, turn me over.” In Lawrence, faith teaches us to invest in the heavenly riches echoing Christ’s statement in today’s gospel, “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy” (Lk. 12:32). Abraham set the precedence by attempting to give his only son. Saint Lawrence followed suit by sacrificing his life in martyrdom. Christ reminds us, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Lk. 12:33).
My friends, where is your treasure stored at? Are you living like the young man who said to Christ in last Sunday’s reading, “Tell my brother to share the inheritance with me?” Or like the foolish rich man who put his faith in his possession, who stored treasures only for himself? Where is your treasure? Does temptation, failure, lack of material success make you to lose your faith? Think about this, “What will you miss most when you’re dying?” Christ says today, “If that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.” All you bosses, take note. All you, employers, take note. All you, rich men, take note. Don’t let the Master assign you a place with the unfaithful.
Follow Abraham’s module- put your trust, assurance, confidence, faithfulness in God. Faith may test you, but let it lead you to heaven. That’s the best way to stay vigilant.
Ask, Seek, and Knock: The Example of Abraham
Readings: 1st- Gen. 18:20-32; 2nd- Col. 2:12-14; Gospel- Lk. 11:1-13
Abraham takes on a responsibility that is both tough and frustrating- pleading for the sinful Sodom before the Lord. In this encounter, God reveals to Abraham his plan to destroy Sodom. Scripture tells us that Abraham pleads incessantly that God considers some righteous persons in the city and for their sake, spare Sodom of the intended destruction. The righteous will always plead for sinners.
The manner of Abraham’s appeal before God is interesting- bold, insistent, and deferential. Abraham begins by drawing near to the Lord, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?” He begins by asking for pardon if fifty innocent people are seen in Sodom, then knocks it down to forty-five, to forty, to thirty, to twenty, and then to ten. Abraham represents here, the power of holy intercession. He stands out as a model of prayer before God. Abraham is very clear about his demands from God- do not destroy the righteous because of sinners.
Abraham’s approach also sets a model of persistence and diligent consistency. While pleading for Sodom, Abraham does not take God for granted. He recognizes that his interaction with God is a privilege. His choice of words shows God’s supremacy in their conversation: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!” “Let not my Lord grow impatient if I go on.” “Since I have dared to speak to my Lord…” “Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time.” Abraham does not give up. He introduces the concept which Jesus deepens in the gospel about perseverance in prayer- prayer is interaction with our Father.
One of the disciples of Jesus says to him in the gospel, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples” (Lk. 11:1). What is this disciple doing -reminding Jesus of his responsibility, telling him what John does, or what? I think he is presenting to Jesus our human limitations to prayer. It’s obvious that prayer could be a hard thing to do. Why? Because in prayer we are dealing with God who is invisibly present. We do not see him as in every other conversation we have with human beings. I remember a few times when I have spontaneously called upon people to lead in prayer. The usual answers I have received go like this, “I can’t. I don’t know how to pray.” Most people are short of words when it comes to prayer. That means it is different when we converse with God. So, the first part of that gospel reminds us to always invoke the Spirit of Christ in order to help us to pray. Saint Paul says, In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings” (Rom. 8:26-27). Always ask Jesus to teach you how to pray. It is God who directs you in prayer.
What does Jesus teach? He tells the disciples, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation” (Lk. 11:2-4). I was at an A.A. meeting recently and was impressed at the way the members, struggling and recovering alcoholics united hands to say this wonderful prayer.
Jesus teaches us to recognize that God is our Father. That’s important in order to build a relationship, a connection that depicts God’s love for us. God is that Father who invites us to his love; the Father whose kingdom reaches out to the ends of the world; the Father full of mercy and forgiveness; the Father who accompanies and guides us on the right path. Remember how the Psalm 23 begins, “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” Understanding the Lord’s prayer means understanding that God can do everything for us because He is our Father.
The second aspect of Jesus’ teaching exposes persistence as an important aspect in prayer. Jesus goes deeper in answering the question. It’s both: about knowing how to pray and recognizing the demands of prayer. He uses the analogy of the friend who comes to make a demand from his friend late at night. Even though the friend inside the room seems unwilling to satisfy the demands of the friend who’s making the request, the recipient does not give up. Such persistence would therefore elicit a response from this reluctant friend. Jesus says, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need” (Lk. 11:8). Mark those words, “because of your shameless audacity.” Are there times you feel unworthy to appear before God? Are there times you feel you’ve bothered him enough. Haven’t you heard someone say to you, “I’m not sure whether God still hears me.” “I think I have given God a lot of troubles, maybe I am asking so much from Him.” Jesus says, you must persist in your shameless audacity. God is still waiting.
How do you do it? Jesus gives us three steps: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Lk. 11:9). Step 1: Ask. Step 2: Seek. Step 3: Knock. That’s the key, ASK! Did you notice that acronym? (A…sk, S…eek, K…nock). To ask is to make an active request or demand. Say what you want. Tell your Father. The next is to seek. Search for Him. Make visits. Go to him. Spend time with him. To knock means to ask to be let in. Press the doorbell. Press again. Hang on as you press. Don’t go because He might show at the door the moment you turn your back. Jesus tells us that these actions must be performed continuously in our relationship with God.
The great difference lies understanding the difference between our human nature and the nature of God. Human/earthly fathers have a relationship with their children. They care for them, provide for them, and support them. But human nature can disappoint. Jesus says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk. 11:13). We all have images of our earthly fathers. Some dads are good and wonderful, others could be nasty and crazy. Some good dads have become crazy along the line for some reasons beyond our explanations while some nasty dads have also turned good by the grace of God. However, God’s nature is that He is all-good, in fact, the Highest Good. It is his nature to be that loving, caring, wonderful, supportive, and unchangeable Father. Abraham teaches us that He is the Father who listens.
Just do the three steps: Go to Him in prayer. Ask him of your needs. Seek him with your strength. Knock at his door of mercy and love. However you want to do it! Sit down, stand up, be on your knees, bow down, lie down if you want. Visit the Chapel. Go to the Blessed Sacrament. That’s His door. Press the bell and wait. Hang around for a while. He will answer because He is (y)our Father.
BY THEIR FRUITS WE SHALL KNOW THEM
Readings: 1st- Sirach 27:4-7; 2nd- 1 Cor. 15:54-58; Gospel- Lk. 6:39-45
Let us divide the message of the gospel of today into three parts. Let’s call them the three challenges for our Christian life:
1). Leadership and the power of speech
Each of these categories kicks off with an interesting provocative as presented by Jesus in the parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person?” “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye, but not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.”
Beginning with the first reading, the image of the tree is used by Ben Sirach to draw analogy between internal condition and external expressions of what lies within the individual. According to Sirach, “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had, so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind” (Sirach 27:6-7). Speech is powerful and can be used to assess a person’s character. Speech flows from inside. It expresses a person’s mind. Sirach reminds us that we are like the tree planted in the orchard whose products tell about the quality of the orchard. Either we produce healthy fruits or rotten fruits.
Saint Paul presents us with the theology of the resurrection which anchors on victory of life over death. The physical is corruptible. The spiritual is incorruptible. As mortal as we are, we are ultimately the fruits of immortality. Recognizing that we transcend mortal flesh provides us with hope in a future life. Death can only threaten our mortality. For St. Paul, the mortally doomed is the sinner because sin cuts us off from eternal life. Sin leads to death. Hence Paul echoes, “The sting of death is sin.” But we belong to immortality through the death and resurrection of Christ. We are victorious over sin because Christ has redeemed us from death. We no longer bear fruits of sin but of righteousness in Christ Jesus. Death has lost its power in us. Saint Paul urges us to be firm and steadfast with the conviction that our labor will not be in vain in the Lord. Our work will bear fruit of eternal life which is the greatest victory over sin and death.
In the gospel, Christ speaks about the blind person’s inability to lead another blind. Literally, we know how true this is. Someone who’s blind cannot guide another blind person like a person with complete sight would, else they trip. Jesus’ image depicts the responsibility bestowed upon those in authority and in leadership positions. For instance, those who teach others must be informed correctly. Those who lead God’s flock must be worthy of emulation. Those who instruct children and the youth must show good examples. Those who govern in politics must be sincere and transparent. If these leaders do not provide exemplary leadership, their followers may dwindle and sink into moral and spiritual darkness.
The second challenge in the parable is about judgment. Christ says, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” This is common with human beings, right from the time of Adam. It is easier to talk about the spirituality of my neighbor than mine. It is easier to talk about my wife/husband’s bad attitude than mine. It is easier to cast blame on others because we are mostly inclined towards judging others. We see other’s fault too quickly. “She does this or that.” “He doesn’t do this or that.” Such is the human way. We condemn. We pick out defects. We examine other people’s consciences. We want to clean others up whereas we carry our dirt in a hidden and protected body. We wouldn’t talk about our filth. Christ calls us “hypocrite!” That’s exactly how the Pharisees behaved. They were very good in calling people out for their sins while living in denial. It is important today to do some self-reflection and find out what we need to clean up inside ourselves, then we can adjust properly to clean others up. The wooden beam blurs your vision to remove what is in the other person’s eyes. Here is what Saint Paul says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.
So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:1-4).
The third challenge is Christ’s remark, “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.” Continuing from the preceding argument, the type of judgment we pass shows how much of who we are. The kind of judgment we pass tells about our inner disposition. Our mouth speaks mercy if our hearts contain mercy. Our mouth proclaims peace if we have peace within us. While growing up, some of us are brought up in unfriendly environments while some are brought up in friendly caring environments. Some individuals grow up not knowing what it means to receive care and support. Some never heard the words, “I love you” from their primary caregivers. Some never knew what it meant to empathize or show compassion. Some never knew what it meant to feel with those in pain. There are some who don’t understand what it means to show mercy. Such individuals will hardly show mercy, compassion, and care to those around them. Their words portray internal brokenness. Individuals who experience disruption usually express same in different ways. Individuals who experience love and mercy usually express love and mercy. Christ says, “For every tree is known by its own fruit.”
Today, as Christians, we are called to bear fruits that show our Christian environment. We are manured each day with the word of God. We take in love, truth, justice, compassion, holiness, and forgiveness. We store up these fruits inside ourselves. We are fed with the Bread of Life in the Blessed Eucharist. We should in turn bear such fruits that bring life to others. Let us not bear rotten fruits of sin and negativity. Let us not be blind leaders in our homes, offices, and relationships. Let us bring life to those around us. The good news is that we are called to the life that transcends the physical. We belong ultimately to immortality. We have the power to conquer sin and death. We bear the fruit of life.
WHEN THE CHRISTIAN STANDARD GETS REALLY TOUGH
Readings: 1st- 1 Sam. 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 2nd- 1 Cor. 15:45-49; Gospel- Lk. 6:27-38
We face the very tough demands of the Christian life in today’s readings- the huge call for forgiveness. Recently, I had someone ask me this question, “Father, what does forgiveness mean for you?” I bet you, that could be a hard question especially for someone who is hurting and still having resentments. David helps to unpack that in the first reading, whereas Christ takes it higher in the gospel.
Saul, is a known enemy to David. He vows to kill him. He plans and tries to carry it out. He pursues David all over, sets traps to catch him. In the reading, he follows him into the desert of Ziph. Fortunately, for David, Saul and his military general fall asleep. David comes so close with all the opportunities to revenge. His army general Abishai pushes him so hard. He doesn’t even ask David to commit the act himself, but here he says, “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!” This can be called “Killing made easy.” Abishai will do it for David, so it’s no big deal for him. What is going on in your mind at this moment? Just hold to your thoughts, but hear David’s reply, “Do not harm him, for who can lay his hands on the Lord’s anointed and remain unpunished?” Then, David takes only Saul’s spear and water jug and summons him from afar.
The few questions from this encounter include the position of Abishai, the response from David, and the status of Saul. There is no doubt that many of us, I mean, the majority, would take the position of Abishai. We might take the opportunity for revenge if we have such. Let’s not go to the extreme instance of killing someone. But think of someone who used to be your close friend. Or your ex-husband/wife. He/she offends you in some serious way and both of you part ways. You’re no longer friends. You feel disappointed because she’s betrayed you or disappointed you. You are still bearing the hurt. Now you’re the boss in a company. You advertise for an open position in your office and new hires are showing up for interview. Here comes your former friend. You are the one to interview her. You are the one to make the final decision and recommend her for the job. What exactly would you do?
It’s possible to see David as a weakling in this scenario. Why should he spare a known enemy? Why not kill Saul and have the whole thing done with? The question becomes, “Is David really weak?” The answer is found in his statement to Saul when he wakes him up; “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” (1 Sam. 26:23). David takes the battle to God. He recognizes that God has the power to fight on his behalf. He understands that God’s justice and faithfulness give the persecutor numerous chances to repent. He confirms what we hear in the Psalms, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in kindness” (103:8). God is David’s strength.
The real dilemma in this story is about Saul. And the question to reflect upon is, “Does Saul represent God’s anointed with such an evil mind as his?” We might even go further to ask, “Does he deserve mercy?” Obviously, Saul doesn’t portray the mercy of God. He is brutal and destructive. His intention is clear, to eliminate David. Saul is jealous, unkind, and dangerous. Humanly, speaking, Saul does not deserve David’s mercy. However, Saul still represents God since he occupies the throne. It becomes a recognition of the office he is occupying and the fact that mercy belongs to God and not us. And that’s why David states, “for who can lay hands on the Lord’s anointed and remain unpunished?” (1 Sam. 26:9). You might want to know what David’s action does to Saul afterwards. Having heard David’s words, Saul says to David, “I have done wrong. Come back, my son David, I will not harm you again, because you have held my life precious today. Indeed, I have been a fool and have made a serious mistake” (1 Sam. 26:21-22). When David hands the spear to Saul, he repeats exactly the same words to him, “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” (v.23-25). Then he adds, “As I valued your life highly today, so may the Lord value my life highly and deliver me from all difficulties” (v.24). Saul then blesses David. Isn’t that an interesting movie to watch?
Jesus breaks it down for us in the gospel with real difficult demands, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk. 6:28). How is that possible? The answer is that Jesus wants us to act like God, a very high standard. God sends his rain and sunshine upon everyone, good and bad. Unfortunately, the bad ones act against God and his commandment. Sometimes, they refuse to even believe that God exists despite that He created them. Still, God doesn’t withdraw his favors from such people.
Remember Simon, the Pharisee, who invites Jesus to dine in his house. Scripture tells us that as Jesus enters Simon’s house, “a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee” (Lk. 7:37) stumbles in. She begins to weep and to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears. Simon reacts in a human way by expecting Jesus to send that woman away. Jesus reprimands Simon and says to him, “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, hence she has shown great love” (Lk. 7:47).
Numerous demanding statements stand out in the gospel teaching today (Luke 6):
- “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
- ”If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?”
- “But rather, love your enemies and do good to them.”
- “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”
I bet you, Jesus knows how tough these demands are for us as human beings. It goes back to the question that I was asked at the beginning, “What does forgiveness mean to you?” It is always good to bring God into the picture as you struggle. It’s worse when your detractor isn’t repentant or keeps making you feel guilty. You live with the wicked man/woman. He/she is unrepentant and evil. Go back and read the story of David and Saul in 1 Samuel, chapter 26. It could give you some strength. The important thing is how you heal from your pains and hurts. You need to leave resentment behind for complete and effective healing. It might take a while, but that’s the way forward. God can do it for you because He “will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness” (1 Sam. 26:23). I’m not sure that God is going to lower the standard from what it is and what Jesus tells us. Just remember this, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” That’s the golden rule. And Paul says, “Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:18-19).