Friday, February 22, 2013

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


           We always have a choice. Even in the most extreme situations, we have a choice. In the reading from 1st Samuel, David and Abishai search for Saul at night. Saul takes 3,000 men into the wilderness where they plot against David’s life, but David finds Saul first. David makes a choice to spare his adversary Saul, who is vulnerable in his sleep. He takes the King’s spear to let him know that he had an opportunity to do in Saul, but he chose not to lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Wow! He let his enemy live, which therefore changed the actions of others. He remains righteous and faithful. His good action changes the fate of the two men. We always have a choice, and our positive choices create new possibilities for a bright future.
            We always have a choice. Even in the most extreme situations, we have a choice. In the reading from 1st Samuel, David and Abishai search for Saul at night. Saul takes 3,000 men into the wilderness where they plot against David’s life, but David finds Saul first. David makes a choice to spare his adversary Saul, who is vulnerable in his sleep. He takes the King’s spear to let him know that he had an opportunity to do in Saul, but he chose not to lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Wow! He let his enemy live, which therefore changed the actions of others. He remains righteous and faithful. His good action changes the fate of the two men. We always have a choice, and our positive choices create new possibilities for a bright future.
            The Gospel tells us to love our enemies and to be good no matter the circumstances. It doesn’t read, “we have to like, or tolerate, or endure, but to love.” This is hard to do when we can’t even love our friends and family well. Sometimes we don’t even like ourselves. Loving another is out of the question. We first need an experience of being loved by God – to liberate us to the core before we can love another. We then need to love God in return when we are transformed by God’s love beyond our most far-reaching dreams. When we accept God’s love of us, we can then more fully love those who are closest to us. When we accept their love, we have the courage, experience, and compassion to love even our enemies. To love another requires an eduring commitment to the other person. It is daily hard work where we stretch ourselves and make ourselves vulnerable. Growing in love means that we learn to love in incremental steps because loving is risky and it makes vulnerable. We have to trust that vulnerability.
            A loving practice is to say something good about a person even when you are mad at him or her without being dishonest to your experience. You want to acknowledge your feelings and make prudential judgments, but you do not need to act out of your anger. The Psalm tells us that God is slow to anger and abounding in kindness. Our faith asks us to imitate God. Address the behavior that causes your anger as immediately as you can and directly to the person who upsets you. It does you no good to talk behind someone’s back because your negativity continues to grow – producing nothing that is good. 
            Feeding into your anger means that you will not give yourself a chance to reconcile and it keeps you enslaved to your narrowing world. Being nice to your enemy creates opportunities for you and your adversary to come together and talk about your feelings. It may stretch us to be nice to a person when our anger is intense, but it settles us down very quietly. The behaviors of others are far beyond our control. Being kind to our adversary goes against everything we feel and it is the last thing we want to do, but we can be kind to the person, not because he or she is kind, but because we are kind. Somehow the world is suddenly different and we are at peace with our outward, hopeful actions.
Jesus begins his Gospel address to his disciples with these words, “To those of you who hear.” Listen to one another with attention and reverence, especially when you are angry with someone. Especially then. Listening is key to understanding and most times when we argue, it is because we have closed down our ability to listen. We fail to grow when we don’t hear someone else’s statements. Seek to profit by the words of your adversaries. Do not let the precious words of your adversaries fall unheeded but receive them into your heart. Understanding leads to enrichment. This is being like God who is slow to anger and abounding in kindness. Listening opens our mind, heart, and imagination to the exciting possibilities. You give yourself and others a great gift. Listening offers the world peace where we all grow in wisdom and holiness. Love yourself enough to love your enemies.