Monday, June 16, 2008

turning the other cheek

Today's two Mass readings would seem to be in contradiction with each other. Actually, in the first reading we only get the evil deed; the retribution will be announced in tomorrow's reading. But retribution is promised for the vicious murder of the innocent Naboth: the dogs will "lick the blood" of King Ahab and his treacherous wife Jezebel (the original Jezebel).
The book of Exodus (quoting Genesis and the laws given at the time of Noah) that if anyone sheds the blood of a human being, then the killer's blood must also be shed. And that is what God tells King Ahab is going to happen to him and his scheming wife: they are going to lose their lives.
But Ahab repents.
And God accepts his repentance. Instead of insisting "An eye for an eye," God does not require that strict justice be visited on Ahab. (Ahab's descendants, however, will suffer the consequences of his misdeeds!)
Jesus says, "You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but I tell you to offer no resistance to injury." No revenge. No payback. It seems that Jesus was only telling us what St. Paul put a different way, "Be imitators of God as his very dear children."


Anonymous said...

I left a comment. Not sure where it went. Just disappeared.

Anonymous said...

Your reflection has prompted me to think more deeply about the connections that tie these readings together. I struggle so much with my little bit of faith and often ask the questions "Who is God?" and "Where is this God in my life and in the world today?" I am at a loss to find answers to these questions when I hear news of our country's involvement in an unjust war abroad as well as news about the murder of an innocent child much closer to home. (And I wonder at my own unwitting participation however indirect it may be.)

Recently I attended the bat mitzvah of a close friend and was inspired by the deep love and joyful reverence expressed towards the Torah scrolls which contain the very Word of God. I think I have never seen greater joy than that which was expressed by a most genuine smile and tears in the eyes of my friend as she carried the velvet covered scroll in the jubilant procession up one aisle and down the next. So many of the community of faith who were seated near the aisles reached out a prayer book or the edge of a prayer shawl to reverently touch the Torah scroll as it passed by. As the ritual lovingly unfolded I thought how remarkable it is that the writer of the Gospel of John would say: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

As regards the readings of today it seems that it was not enough for God to accept King Ahab's repentance and to speak a word of forgiveness. In truly prodigal fashion, in a kind of semitic hyperbole, if you will, God chose to become forgiveness. In the person of Jesus, God's keeps faith to the word spoken to Ahab and releases Ahab and even all his descendants from the just punishment required by the Law. "Offering no resistance to injury" Jesus takes Ahab's place and the place of his descendants and even our place in accepting the consequence of all sin. In Jesus, God speaks the most definitive Word of all and it is ultimately a word of love, a word of forgiveness, a word of peace.

What remains for me and just won't let me go is the question: How can I be an "imitator of God" today in the very ordinary moments of my life as well as in confronting the extraordinary circumstances of a world divided by violence and war? I have not found an adequate answer to that question. All I can do is continue to ask the question again and again, day after day. The most I can do is join my Jewish friend in studying the Word with all the reverence and love I can find within me. And in so doing to seek to put on the mind of Christ.

If only I could make a home for God's Word in my heart even as you, Sr. Anne, have made a home for the Word of God on the internet.

I hope also to meet you one day soon. May God be with you in your travels and guard your way in paths of peace.