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Ordinary Time 7 (C)
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Readings for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1. I Samuel 26, 2, 7-9, 12-13 and 22-23

  • As I hear the story, I remember the David legends.  I can read the first sentence as a news anchor might, then switch to my quietest voice for the dialog between David and Abishai as they tiptoe into Saul’s tent, and finally reach for my clarion call when they retreat to the hilltop.  And now what else?
  • All good war stories will exaggerate the facts for effect, of course.  The details of this story fit the prophetic message we hear throughout scripture.  Israel is not to rely on its military strength but on God’s protection.  But which army, much less our own, would carry on armed conflict like that?
  • David is a guerrilla fighter and is forced to fight like all guerrillas, in surprise ambushes.  Just the same, he wants to prevail by force of persuasion.  The Gospel passage will enlarge upon this way of treating our enemies.
  • The story sounds incredible, but similar things happen today.  The personal aide of German Chancellor Willy Brandt was an enemy spy.  I will narrate in a voice full of suspense when I reach the words without anyone’s seeing or knowing or awakening.
  • I wonder why David entered the tent at all if he didn’t intend to kill the king.  Perhaps he began reconnoitering and was amazed to see how far he could get without detection.  Perhaps David even considered killing the king, but had a change of heart when he saw him sound asleep.  Something like that happened to Hamlet.  Well, I will read as if David planned it to come out as it did.  He may also have intended to give an example to his young companion, who would report the event to others.  In this spirit I plan to pause, at the point before Abishai whispered to David, to let my listeners ponder what they would do.
  • Climax: Do not harm him or lay hands on the Lord’s anointed.  They are bound not just by rules of engagement in battle but by a higher standard of right and wrong.  Each word is a single syllable, and I will speak them crisply.
  • Message for our assembly: Are stories like these obsolete for our times, in which our military might destroys enemy targets from remote positions?  Or do they challenge the way we have reduced our enemy to something less than human?  Our citizens feel a need for security and many in my city rely on firearms.
  • I will challenge myself: To show by my own incredulous voice that David has much to show us in his personal code of conduct.  I want to challenge my listeners to look at their own hearts.

 

2. I Corinthians 15, 45-49

  • The reading is close to my heart.  When we named our firstborn son, we wrote the first verse of this passage in his baby album.  Now to find the lesson and apply it for the assembly.
  • The apostle presents a series of contrasts.  I will read them carefully so that everyone knows that he is talking about resurrection.  In fact I want to encourage people to read the entire chapter 15.  No one has explained more concisely and clearly what resurrection means for us.
  • (But) the spiritual was not first.  The “but” translates the original Greek correctly, though the sense is something like “now then.”  I plan to understate it.
  • As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly.  I am old enough to remember the science fiction jargon with its ‘earthlings’ and ‘earth people.’  Let me emphasize the first syllable ‘earth’ as I speak, taking my cue from ecology.
  • Above all, the apostle wants to uplift his listeners for their final vocation to follow Christ into eternity.  There is a state of transformation that I want to call attention to.  It is not a Clark Kent – Superman world but a human – Christ progression.
  • As I contrast natural with spiritual, earthly with heavenly, I remind myself and the assembly that both words identify us.  We have a twin calling, as the apostle shows in the final verse.  We have borne we shall also bear. 
  • Bear the image: The thoughtless copy-rendition of the Latin imago evokes modern advertising campaigns.  The original Greek word eikon has also lost its original meaning for us.  I would put my stress on “earthly” and “heavenly,” aiming for a relationship such as ‘likeness’ or ‘embodiment.’
  • Climax: The beginning of the passage, The last Adam.  The sharpest contrast for our faith is between the living being and the life-giving spirit.  It is our call, too.
  • The message for our assembly: Throughout the reading, I hear expectant joy.  Our death does not end everything for us.  Christ is our pledge.  Do we believe this?
  • I will challenge myself: To declare the passage in the assembly as if I believe it.

 

Gospel. Luke 6, 27-38

  • I hear the ultimate challenge of Jesus, as a series of powerful waves washing over us and stripping away our instinct for self-defense and revenge.  I think I should let the words speak for themselves.  I must not get in the way or make the revolutionary teaching sound trivial.  We are confronted here with the Christianity that, in the words of Chesterton, “has not yet been tried.”  Let us allow our precious Lord Jesus to judge our compromising ways.
  • I will communicate the challenge slowly and deliberately.  I want to allow everyone to find a tiny niche where they can dig in their toes and not slide helplessly down the sheer rock face.  It may be pray for those who mistreat you where they can identify – or where they resolve to identify.  And from that humble point they can grow in love.
  • Three times Jesus contrasts the disciple with sinners.  Three times he asks: What credit?  I will emphasize ‘what?’  Well, it is a beginning, since loving and doing good and lending money are not bad actions.  They just don’t measure up to his benchmark.  His credentials?  Try reading the Passion.  Yes, listener, it’s real! 
  • Climax: You will be children of the Most High.  The ultimate context, the ultimate benchmark, is the divine, of course. 
  • Can I along with the homilist make the afterglow reach as far as the Our Father that we pray together in about 20 minutes?  My rehearsal can make the difference.
  • Message for our assembly: Give and gifts will be given to you.  Listen to the wonderful description of abundance, building to shaken down and overflowing.  Do we all feel it?  Some in my congregation have carried viandas in their skirts.  The measure with which you measure: How do we measure up?
  • I will challenge myself: To let the assembly hear the challenge deeply, so that they can reject it consciously or (I hope) turn completely to the Lord.

 

From Word to Eucharist: We approach the Word just as we are, strangers to each other.  Can reconciliation begin here and now?  Can we let our defenses down in Christ?

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