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7th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle C)

Readings:
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
Psalm 103:1-13
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Luke 6:27-38

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: Are You a Saul or a David?
The Law of the Sinai Covenant required the Israelites to love their covenant kinsmen, but they had no obligations to love or show mercy to those outside the covenant family (Lev 19:18).  In our First Reading David demonstrates his obedience to that command when he has the opportunity to kill King Saul, a man whose jealousy of David's success in battle and his popularity with the people grew into such a violent hatred that he vowed to take David's life.  When David had the opportunity to kill his enemy, he resisted the temptation and put his hope and trust in God, because, as David reminds us in today's Psalm, "God redeems your life from destruction" when you are faithful, obedient to His will, and trust Him with your life.

That God will redeem those who are faithful is the promise in today's Second Reading.  St. Paul writes that Jesus is the "second Adam."  We bear the physical image of the first Adam and like him in death we will return to the dust of the earth, but through God's grace Jesus, the "second Adam," has redeemed the faithful from death.  It is through the Sacrament of Baptism we bear the image of the "heavenly Adam" who will one day return to make us like Himself in the resurrection of body and spirit.

The story of the contrast between Saul and David prepares us for the Gospel Reading.  In the New Covenant Jesus not only fulfilled the old Law but He transformed it—He intensified the demands of righteousness, He internalized those obligations, and He internationalized the covenant commands of justice, love, and compassion to include the entire human family including even our enemies.  Jesus' disciples are not to be ruled by human passions like King Saul.  They are instead to demonstrate that love of God requires acts of love, compassion and obedience like David who feared offending God more than he feared what Saul could do to him. The truth is we all have it in us to be either a Saul who hates or a David who forgives in gratitude for God's mercy and forgiveness toward him.  The choice is entirely ours.

The First Reading 1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 ~ David Spares Saul's Life
2 In those days, Saul went down to the desert of Ziph with three thousand picked men of Israel, to search for David in the desert of Ziph.  [...]  7 So David and Abishai went among Saul's soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner and his men sleeping around him.  8 Abishai whispered to David: "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!"  9 But David said to Abishai, "Do not harm him, for who can lay hands on the LORD's anointed and remain unpunished?"  [...] 12 So David took the spear and the water jug from their place at Saul's head, and they got away without anyone's seeing or knowing or awakening.  All remained asleep, because the LORD had put them into a deep slumber.  13 Going across to an opposite slope, David stood on a remote hilltop at a great distance from Abner, son of Ner, and the troops. [...] 22 He said: "Here is the king's spear.  Let an attendant come over to get it.  The LORD will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness.  23 Today, though the LORD delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the LORD's anointed.

David's faith and obedience to God is demonstrated in two episodes involving King Saul who is David's sworn enemy. Some men from Ziph went to Saul and offered to betray David.  Their city was located in the hill country of southern Judah (Josh 15:55) and gave its name to the Judean wilderness between the city and the Dead Sea at En-Gedi (1 Sam 23:14-15, 24; 26:2).  Saul's remorse for the way he has treated David in an episode recounted in 24:17-22, and his thankfulness for David sparing his life is short-lived.  He is back to relentlessly hunting down David and his men with an army of three thousand men to David's six hundred.  The Hill of Hachilah is an unknown site located in the wilderness of southern Judah not far from Hebron.  David hid from Saul there in 1 Samuel 23:19 and 26:1, and in this episode Saul pitches his camp there.  Saul is looking for David, but David has better spies and locates Saul's camp first.  Saul is in the company of his kinsman and army commander, Abner son of Ner (see 1 Sam 14:50-51 and 26:5).

In the dark David and is nephew Abishai make their way into Saul's camp where they discover Saul sleeping soundly.  Abishai suggests that God has put Saul into David's hands and offers to kill his kinsman's mortal enemy.  Abishai's boast that it will only take one blow to "pin him to the ground" with Saul's spear recalls when Saul twice tried to "pin David to the wall" with the same spear (1 Sam 18:11 and 19:10).  But David resists the temptation and forbids his nephew to raise his hand against Yahweh's anointed king of Israel.  Abishai is apparently so shocked by David's refusal that David feels it is necessary to explain to him that God will judge Saul, and his death is in God's hands.  David fears offending God more than he fears what his enemy can do to him or his family, and David, who is also God's anointed (1 Sam 16:1, 12-13), trusts God with his destiny (verse 10).

To offer proof that he could have taken his life, David takes Saul's spear and the water jug lying by his head.  Perhaps David takes them himself because he is fearful that it would be too much of a temptation for the impetuous Abishai to have the spear in his hands. It is an action similar to cutting a piece of Saul's cloak in 24:5, 12 when David also resisted the temptation to kill his enemy.  No one in the camp awoke because God's deep slumber had fallen upon them.  The Lord has again intervened directly to aid David. 

David retreats to the safety of the other side of a gorge.  He shouts from the prominence across the gorge to Saul's camp.  David's shouting across the gorge has awakened the men in Saul's camp from not just a sound sleep but a God-induced stupor.  David then lifts up Saul's spear as proof that he could have killed Saul but that he has shown mercy to the anointed king of his people.  David feared offending God more than he feared his enemy, and he loved God more than he feared killing his enemy to save his own life.  For his act of mercy God will reward David.  Saul will be killed in battle, David will become Israel's greatest and most beloved king, and the ancestor of the mother of the Redeemer-Messiah and her son, Jesus of Nazareth!

Responsorial Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13 ~ Praise the Mercy of the Lord
The response is: "The Lord is kind and merciful."
 
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name.  2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
Response:
3 He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills.  4 He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.
Response:
8 Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. [...] 10 Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
Response:
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us.  13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
Response:

This psalm is attributed to David who gives thanks to God for his blessings that are both physical and spiritual.  He begins by giving praise to God with his entire being—giving thanks for all the good God has done for him (verses 1-2).  In verses 3-4 he expresses the reasons not only for his praise but why all people should give thanks and praise to Yahweh.  It is because God pardons all our sins, heals us of our ailments, and redeems our lives from the grave with "kindness and compassion" (verse 4) that shines like a crown.  He testifies in verses 8 and 10 that God is merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in kindness—recounting the divine attributes that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7.

Then he gives a summary of the limitless extent of God's love and mercy in forgiving the sins of those who fear offending Him verses 12-13—it is as far as the east is from the west and it is like the love a father has for his children—such is God's love for His human children in His covenant family.

The Second Reading 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 ~ Bearing the Image of Christ
45 It is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living being," the last Adam a life-giving spirit.  46 But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual.  47 The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man from heaven.  48 As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.  49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.

All the descendants of the "first Adam" have inherited his human nature in a body that was formed from the dust of the earth and that is destined to perish and return to dust (Gen 2:7).  Jesus is the "new Adam."  He took on human nature in a body that could be destroyed, but in His resurrection from the grave His divinity triumphed over His human nature, and when He returns in glory He will share His bodily resurrection with us in its perfection and immortality. 

Commenting on verse 46 St. Augustine wrote: "It is called a spiritual body not because it has become a spirit but because it is in such a way subject to the spirit, to fit it for its heavenly abode. That every kind of earthly weakness and imperfection is changed into a heavenly permanence" (De fide et symbol, chapter 6).

In this present life, Christians are called to reflect the image of "the heavenly one" by reproducing the life of Christ in our own lives— having died to sin through the Sacrament of Baptism the Christian has already been raised with Christ to a new life (Col 3:1-4).  St. Paul writes that Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father that we too might walk in newness of life; and since Christ being raised from the dead shall never die again, so we also must consider ourselves dead to sin so that we might live eternally with him in glory (cf. Rom 6:4-11 and 1 Thes 5:10).

The Gospel of Luke 6:27-38 ~ The Law of Love
Jesus said to his disciples: 27 "But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  29 To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.  30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.  31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.  32 For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do the same.  34 If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.  35 But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  37 Stop judging and you will not be judged.  Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.  38 Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

Jesus came down from the mountain where He had been teaching His disciples (Lk 6:12-16) to give a sermon to the crowds of people gathered below the mountain on the plain that sloped down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Lk 6:17).  This is the second part of Jesus' Sermon on the Plain, and, like the Beatitudes He taught His disciples, it is a radically new teaching.  Jesus is asking the people not to respond to others as their human nature tells them to respond, but rather to respond in mercy and love as God responds to human frailty (verse 36).  In verses 27 and 32-35, Jesus calls the people to demonstrate a triad of works that demonstrates love, good deeds, and giving/lending to those in need.  He gave them a simple maxim to guide their lives that has come to be known as "the golden rule" when He told them, "31 Do to others as you would have them do to you."  Then Jesus contrasted two kinds of rewards in verses 32-35: earthly rewards and heavenly rewards.  In verses 35-36, Jesus says the triad of goodness in demonstrating love, good deeds, and helping those who are in need must be exercised without calculating a reward.  Those who act without expectation of return, even toward their enemies, will be rewarded by God.  One who receives an earthly compensation or recognition has already been rewarded.

Jesus tells them: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."  This teaching is repeated several times in Jesus' homilies:

As the children of our Divine Father through the spiritual rebirth of Christian baptism, we are asked to be like our Father in the way we behave and to pattern our lives after the life of the merciful, just, and loving Jesus Christ.  A righteous and merciful God deserves righteous and merciful children. 

Jesus sums up this teaching by saying: "37 Stop judging and you will not be judged.  Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.  38 Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."  In this teaching Jesus is not condemning us for judging sin in others.  Jesus gave the disciples instructions on dealing with a brother or sister within the faith community who sins in Matthew 18:15-17.  And Proverbs 4:14-15 advises, Do not follow the path of the wicked, do not walk the way that the evil go.  Avoid it, do not take it, turn your back on it, pass it by (NJB).  Also see what St. Paul wrote on the subject in Romans 2:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.  We must judge sin in order to avoid it and condemn it, and we must be able to correct a fellow Christian who has fallen into sin in order to help our brother/sister and to protect both the Church and the quality of the Church's Christian witness.  But we judge the sin and not the sinner.  We do not judge the heart of the individual because we do not have that authority.  Only God can judge hearts and souls.  As for those who sin outside the covenant, when those sins are condemned under civil law, we must cooperate with the civil authorities to protect society in general.  While it is our obligation to share the Gospel of truth with those who are not Christians and pray for their conversion, the final disposition of their souls is in God's hands.

When Jesus said, "37b Forgive and you will be forgiven," His teaching is that in fighting sin we must begin with fighting sin in ourselves.  We are being hypocrites if we quickly judge a fault in someone else when we are guilty of the same fault in our own lives.  When we recognize and condemn what is a failure in our own life in someone else without confessing our own sin, our sin will doubly count against us at our judgment because we were fully aware of our own failure.  We will also have no credibility if we try to help someone else whose life is being torn apart by sin if our life is just as tainted. 

The answer to living a life of righteousness is in seeking God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  When we experience the grace of God's forgiveness, we must not withhold that same forgiveness from others. To forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us is a petition in the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:12) and is followed by the same warning Jesus gave in Luke 6:37b when He said,  "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions" (Mt 6:14-15).  Each of us must be committed to forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ (Eph 4:32).  St. Augustine wrote "Whoever confesses his sins ...is already working with God" (In evangelium Johannis, 12).

Notice that there is an implied warning in verse 37b. Our lack of forgiveness to a brother or sister in the human family may become a sin that hinders God's forgiveness for the sins in our lives.  If we are generous and merciful in forgiving those who have wronged us, just as God had been merciful in forgiving our sins, Jesus makes us a promise: He said, "38 Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."  The result of our gift of unlimited love and compassion for others is God's gift of abundant grace to us. 

Catechism References:
Psalm 103 (CCC 304)
1 Corinthians 15:45 (CCC 411, 504); 15:47 (CCC 504)
Luke 6:28 (CCC 1669); 6:31 (CCC 1789, 1970); 6:36 (CCC 1458, 2842)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2016