In the over 10 years that I have been preparing homilies for our community here at All Are One, it seems from my notes that I have never done one for this Sunday and next in the C cycle of which we are now in! That happened I am guessing because of how the Church Year is laid out, basically, when Easter comes in the calendar. You will note that Easter is about as late as it can be, falling on April 21st this year.
So, I looked for some exegesis on the readings for today from Diane Bergant. She says that the story of David sparing Saul’s life is, “a striking example of respect and forgiveness, ‘of doing unto others what we would want them to do unto us,’” as our brother Jesus teaches in today’s gospel from Luke.
Jesus’ examples of “turning the other cheek,” giving and giving, not only the top garment, but our inner garment too to those who would ask, spells out quite well the extent to which we must share with others.
For those who would read this gospel literally, which we should never do; a disclaimer. Should we in our relationships ever allow ourselves to be abused with regard to living in harmony with others? The answer is most assuredly, “No!”
I think that Jesus always made the point of carrying the example to the extreme because he knew of our human tendency to give less than we are capable of giving. The idea, I believe, in praying over Jesus’ message is to look for a balance in our lives that cares for ourselves with enough left to do our share in raising others to a level of dignity that each person deserves.
I personally find sometimes in working with others who have fallen on hard times, like some that I encounter at the Winona Warming Center—having less than the basics to live a dignified life; that some of these individuals present character traits that are less than good. Sometimes when “life happens” as we say, to people; they acquire habits of rudeness toward others, lack of concern, a kind of, dog-eat-dog mentality born perhaps out of the pain they themselves have suffered in life.
Now while I can understand this kind of behavior, due to how someone might have to live; I know too that to condone people acting in this way doesn’t allow them to rise to be their best—what God calls each of us to, in our humanity. Sometimes tough love is required in a world that must serve the needs of all.
Jesus calls us to this task when he says that we shouldn’t accept the abuse—that we should do or say something that lets an abusive person know that we don’t approve of their less-than-good actions toward us or others—we are always challenged to somehow overcome evil with good. As Christians we are then further instructed to forgive, while not accepting the bad behavior and certainly never to retaliate.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians today, reminds us that we must not only model ourselves on the first human—Adam, but on the second human—Jesus. In other words; we must be both human and spirit; and blending the two; we can come more and more to image our brother, Jesus, the Christ.
Diane Bergant writes more on this golden rule of, “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us” by saying that sometimes our culture encourages us toward an opposing rule, that of, “doing unto others before they do unto us.” We all instinctively know within our spirits that we must never respond to our world in this way, while we struggle with our humanity to act in just this way.
I know within myself that I have responded in less than good ways when others have been unjust or unkind to me, but in a more passive way—not necessarily noticeable to others, but noticeable to me.
To be slighted by another, shown an unkindness or a lack of concern; I might make the decision to show a lack of concern for them—nothing overt; but unkind and unChrist-like, just the same.
And the piece for us to be aware of is that the actions of unkindness and retaliation ultimately hurt us more than they do the target of our less-than-good actions. They rob us of our peace and joy.
With regard to how we respond to our world and the people we encounter and associate with, as baptized followers of Jesus; we are always called to take the high road, never acting out of the human tendency “to do first” before it is “done to us,” but most assuredly, to do unto others as we would expect and want them to do unto us. Anything less is simply, not Christian.
And as I stated earlier, this means keeping ourselves as part of the equation—it is never good or right to allow ourselves to be abused with the notion that this example of “turning the other cheek” is what Jesus wants us to do. Balance, always balance, respects the fact that our God loves me as well as all others. An alternative way to speak about the golden rule is to say, “Love your enemies, and, love yourself.” It’s a package!
In conclusion; we must focus on probably the hardest part, forgiving those who have hurt us. Jesus, our brother, showed us the way from the cross, Bergant reminds us—“Forgive them Abba, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
In reflection upon this final piece of Christ-likeness, it seems to me that if I can get my head and heart around the fact that someone “doesn’t know what they are doing,” for whatever reason, then I don’t have to give their action as much weight. Better, I think, to move on, responding as a Christian, as a true believer would and should. After all, as Bergant concludes her remarks, “Violence and hatred will be eradicated from this world only if we refuse to perpetuate it.”
According to a Pew Research Report in 2010; there are 2.19 billion Christians around the world. Imagine; if you can, what this world would be like if we all really lived and treated the earth and its people as Jesus did! That would seem to be our challenge for this week, and each week—Amen? Amen!