“Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” (1 Kings 21:15).
The strongest instinct in any living creature is survival; we would do everything to fight back, to defend our lives from being taken away. So how can we obey these words of Jesus in today’s Gospel passage? First and foremost, we must remember that there is just no other way.
If we all take an eye for an eye, there would soon be humans without eyes. If we took a tooth for a tooth, there would soon be people without teeth. In short, if we never forgive and let go, the human species itself would soon disappear. It is by forgiving others that we live up to our calling as the salt of the earth and light of the world. There is a lot of wickedness already in the world and the cure for this wickedness is not more wickedness but love. In today’s first reading, we read how Jezebel Connived to put Naboth to death for refusing to sell his land to King Ahab. To this day, millions continue to suffer this way. In many parts of our country, farmlands are ransacked and seized by armed bandits who loot, rape, kill and take possession of such properties.
Note that it wasn’t the case that Ahab was a poor man, he was the king, but due to his insatiable greed, he couldn’t take his eyes off the property of poor Naboth. Greed is a very serious disease. We think that by getting one more of this or that, we would be happy, but how frustrated we become – the more we get, the more we wish we had more. After getting the land, was Ahab satisfied? Never! As the cure for wickedness is love so also the cure for greed is love. The only way to avoid materialism is to learn how to be generous. The more you give things away, the more you realize you can survive and still be happy without those things; that only God can satisfy the deepest longings of your heart. By bringing joy rather than pain to others (even those who hurt you), you realize your own joy greatly multiplies.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to find inner satisfaction. Help me to give only love even when I get pain. Amen. Bible Study: 1st Kings 21:1-16, Psalm 5:2-7, Matthew 5:36-42).
Being Merciful is being Perfect
“Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days.” (1 Kings 21:29)
It appears there is a contradiction between our first reading today and our Gospel passage. While God sends Elijah to Ahab to deliver a message of curses for Naboth’s murder, Jesus is telling us that it is in loving our enemies that we can be as perfect as God.
God hates evil. God does not tolerate sin. God doesn’t just watch while innocent lives are being crushed by those in power. Nonetheless, God loves the sinner and even when the sinner has to suffer the consequences of their wrong choices, God never stops loving him or her. In other words, it is possible to love a person without defining him or her by their sinful deeds. This is the perfect love of God and the model of love Jesus recommends. Basically, Jesus is telling us to treat the sinner like a person who does bad things, not like a bad thing who just happens to be a person.
Jesus wants us to see the good in others and love them by praying for their repentance rather than develop hatred for them. It is only when we still recognize the good in others that we can forgive them. God showed mercy to Ahab when he humbled himself and repented because God saw something good in him.
On the other hand, when we allow hatred overpower us, we stop seeing our offenders as human beings. We label them by their deeds and start looking for ways to revenge. Even when they come to ask for our forgiveness, we either turn it down or pretend to have forgiven while we remain bitter within. Sadly, many years after, we continue to speak about such persons in a very bad light.
As Jesus teaches us, if we do not forgive sincerely, if we save our kindness only for those who are kind to us, then we are no better than non-believers. We may be very active or even hold positions in the church yet, we remain unbelievers. No wonder Jesus says: “The gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14).
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, help me walk the narrow path of forgiveness and mercy. Amen. Bible Study: 1st Kings 21:17-29, Psalm 51:3-16, Matthew 5:43-46).