11th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: 1Kngs 21:1-16
Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel next to the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it is close by, next to my house. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money.” Naboth answered him, “The LORD forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage.” Ahab went home disturbed and angry at the answer Naboth the Jezreelite had made to him: “I will not give you my ancestral heritage.” Lying down on his bed, he turned away from food and would not eat. His wife Jezebel came to him and said to him, “Why are you so angry that you will not eat?” He answered her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Sell me your vineyard, or, if you prefer, I will give you a vineyard in exchange.’ But he refused to let me have his vineyard.” His wife Jezebel said to him, “A fine ruler over Israel you are indeed! Get up. Eat and be cheerful. I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and, having sealed them with his seal, sent them to the elders and to the nobles who lived in the same city with Naboth. This is what she wrote in the letters: “Proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. Next, get two scoundrels to face him and accuse him of having cursed God and king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” His fellow citizens the elders and nobles who dwelt in his city did as Jezebel had ordered them in writing, through the letters she had sent them. They proclaimed a fast and placed Naboth at the head of the people. Two scoundrels came in and confronted him with the accusation, “Naboth has cursed God and king.” And they led him out of the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent the information to Jezebel that Naboth had been stoned to death. When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Go on, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you, because Naboth is not alive, but dead.” On hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
Gospel: Mt 5:38-42
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
TURN THE OTHER ONE TO HIM AS WELL: In today’s gospel, we have heard the most powerful lines. Even non-Christians get moved by these three aphorisms: when someone strikes you, when someone wants your tunic, and should anyone press you into service for one mile… Is Jesus teaching mere submissiveness? Let us just explore the first statement. For a right-handed person to strike someone on the right cheek means that they have to use the back of their hand. This way of striking is an act of humiliating the other. And this presupposes a power-parity between the two. However, when the person who is humiliated shows their left cheek, then the striker must now use the front of their right hand to strike the person; by so doing a level of equality has been established. Thus, the person at the lower level has achieved equality with the one who strikes.
Prayer: Lord, grant me the courage to assert myself through my humility.
DESTROY THE ENEMIES BY MAKING THEM FRIENDS: Evil will in no way prevail in the face of love. Doing good to those who wrong us will win our enemies. Practicing retaliation worsens the situation. Our Father in heaven shines light on both sinners and righteous people. Those who claim to be children of God must practice the same. Wheat and weeds were left to grow together not only because uprooting the weeds would endanger the wheat, but also living with our enemies would be a golden chance for them to change, and to practice virtues of patience and acceptance of others. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us to respond to bad actions done to us with good ones. This is how we identify ourselves as Christians.
INORDINATE DESIRES: According to Buddha, suffering in the world is as a result of desires, cravings and attachment; giving up craving would destroy suffering. In today’s readings Ahab is disturbed, angry, and sleepless because of his desire to dislodge Naboth. This craving leads to sin and eventually to Ahab’s death. Like Ahab, the rich and those in top government offices, threaten the lands of the poor as they seek to amass. Jesus challenges craving, “…eye for eye, tooth for tooth, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, blow for blow” (Ex 21:23-25). This does not bring peace but suffering. Jesus recommends that we do away with revenge. Saint Paul agrees with Jesus, “You will make others be ashamed” (Rom 12:20). If we want peace and happiness we need to be freed from the attachment to money and to revenge. Today is the World Elder Abuse day. Because of craving, the elders are abused and not cared for.