A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah
(Chapter 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23)
Samuel, who lived more than a thousand years before the birth of Jesus, was an important person in the history of Israel. He has been called the last of the judges and the first of the prophets. He had secretly anointed Saul as king of Israel, but Saul turned out to be wrong for the role. When the incident we read about today occurred, Israel was at war with the Philistines, but Saul was obsessed with hunting down his son-in-law David, whom he feared as a rival for the throne. While Saul was asleep, David snuck into his camp and could have killed him. Instead, he took Saul’s spear back to his own camp and showed it to his men. He told them that he did not kill Saul who was trying to kill him: “Today, though the Lord delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.” Later, of course, David became the greatest of all the kings of Israel with the blessings of God.
“The Lord is kind and merciful.” This was an important concept for the Jewish people, because the gods worshiped by their contemporaries were anything but “kind and merciful.” It’s an important concept for us, too, because many of our contemporaries worship false gods—power, prestige, money—that also are neither kind nor merciful.
A reading from St. Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians
Earlier in this letter, St. Paul asks about the resurrection of the body: “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” His readers knew it could not possibly the same physical body that they had on earth. That one was gone forever. ”Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one,” Paul wrote. His readers knew that Jesus was alive in a body much like theirs. Then, after his physical death, he came back to life, but in a glorified state no longer confined by time or space. Paul wanted his readers to know that as Jesus’ disciples they, too, would rise to a glorified new life with him. We are blessed with that same promise.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke
Many people in the early Church had trouble following the seemingly “crazy love” that Jesus taught. Here are some examples.
Jesus said to his disciples, “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.”
He summed up this outlandish teaching with the so-called “golden rule”: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” That rule can be quite challenging. It is easy to agree with this in the abstract, but often hard to apply when we experience conflict with others. Have you had that experience, or are you living with it now? Or do you know someone who is?
Let Jesus’ revolutionary words guide us: “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, a good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.”
What a beautiful joyous image: “Gifts will be given to you.” Let us reflect on the gifts we have already been given, and rejoice.
Painting, The Prophet Samuel, Claude Vignon (1593-1670)
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.