Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first book of Samuel supplies the first reading this weekend. Originally this book, and its companion, the Second Book of Samuel, were combined in one volume. In the third century B.C., scholars translated the ancient Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Their translation is famous. It is called the “Septuagint,” or 70 books.
These scholars took some liberties. One example was their division of Samuel into two parts.
The author of the books of Samuel is unknown. Experts cannot agree on the exact time of the books’ composition. The title proceeds from the name of a prophet mentioned in the account. The story concentrates on Saul and David, the first two kings of Israel.
In this reading, King Saul’s fortunes are ebbing. David, the young shepherd from Bethlehem, eventually will replace the monarch. Armed conflict erupts. Under the cover of night, David steals into Saul’s camp, but respecting Saul as God’s choice for the kingship, David does not kill the ruler.
Believing, however, that he himself has been commissioned by God to lead in the place of Saul, David expresses his trust in the Almighty.
St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians is the source of the second reading. Here, the Apostle reminds the Christians of Corinth that they are creatures of the earth, but more importantly they have within themselves the spiritual life of God.
This reference to the spiritual component of humans set the stage for Paul’s instruction that no believer should yield to merely earthly temptations.
St. Luke’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is a call to what is at times the most demanding of Christian responsibilities. It summons followers of the Lord to love all people, and most especially to love their enemies, and, therefore, to be compassionate.
Jesus directed this message not to confirmed disciples, but rather to those thinking about becoming disciples. The Lord’s message is basic, and it is radical. Love for all others, most certainly including love for enemies, and compassion are essential to discipleship.
The power of the message better is understood when balanced against Matthew 5:24a. Luke and Matthew took this scene in the life of Jesus from the same source, however, while Matthew only urged disciples to give to those who are in need, Luke in this passage expands the message. Luke notes that those with possessions have a special obligation. Also, Luke counsels followers of Jesus to give to those who wish to borrow. Finally, Luke tells disciples that they must not insist upon repayment.
The details are important, but, as important, if not more so, is the final and extreme character of discipleship. It is absolute commitment to Jesus, and it is hard.
Soon, the Church will begin the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is only 10 days away. The Church is preparing us for Lent.
For centuries, Catholics, and many other Christians, have looked upon Lent as a time to deny themselves. The popular stories are plentiful. Many adult Catholics today remember parochial school days when all the students pledged “to give up” candy or movies.
Self-denial is still very much a part of Christian life. In these readings, looking ahead to Lent, the Church reminds us that self-denial is much, much more than refusing a tasty chocolate.
Rather, the fundamental self-denial is rejecting temptation to sin. Since sin masquerades itself as something good for us, self-denial means swimming against the tide, humanly speaking, and putting all trust in God. It is a process laden with reluctance and blinded by our instincts and assumptions.
Loving enemies is an example. Self-defense is part of human nature. So is resentment for injury. God calls us to love, to forgive and to be compassionate — as was Jesus.
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