SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2022)
1 Samual 26:2, 7-9,12-14, 22-23
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
If we think of things that are impossibly hard, climbing Mount Everest or landing on the moon might come to mind, but not loving. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that there is any living person who has lived their life so callously that they have not experienced the incredible liberating feeling of loving someone other than oneself as unconditionally as is possible in this world. Loving is celebrated in song and film, and its presence binds and unites, while its absence divides and distorts. In this world it might, at first, seem easy to love, people are falling into it all of the time, but in truth the human condition insures that none of us are perfect lovers. Divorce statistics are probably a sign of our failure to love unselfishly and unconditionally, but as high as those statistics might be, they will not keep people from trying to find the perfect love, so much does love enrich our lives.
If we seek to do it perfectly, love is one the hardest things we will do in our lives, and in support of that contention, let us look a little closer at the readings for today’s liturgy.
As background to all of our gospels, our first readings often form a foundation, and our smattering of verses from chapter 26 of the first Book of Samuel is no exception. The love of King Saul for David was palpable and admirable in the early chapters of Samuel, but things went somewhat south after young David’s popularity, after slaying Goliath, began to overshadow that of the sometimes unstable king. In any case, by this point in Samuel, Saul’s reign is almost over, and Saul has taken to hunting down David like a common criminal, even while still professing his love for David as “his son.”
Our first reading describes the second opportunity David had to take the life of the king, but David’s respect for God’s “anointed” (the same word as “messiah”), keeps him from easily killing Saul. Instead, David is content to let the king know how close he came to death. More importantly, it shows the metal of David, and demonstrates to all how important God’s blessing is, something not to be treated lightly. Although David is not always the epitome of goodness in the Jewish Scriptures, here he acts as God would act, “merciful and gracious,” “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” [Ps 103:8]. At least this once, David loves as God loves!
It is with the gospel that we get to the impossible (although demonstrated by David) part of loving like God loves. In words that are always challenging and appropriate for any age, Jesus says to His disciples (who surely were scratching their heads): “I say love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The love we show to our enemies is not an easy love practiced from afar. It is a generous love, which expects nothing in return, and which demands that we “do good to our enemies.” The so-called Golden Rule is enshrined in this sermon on the plain: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” If we stop judging we can avoid being judged, if we stop condemning we can be free of condemnation, if we forgive we will be forgiven. “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.”
There it is in Luke’s gospel – the impossibility of us loving like God is spelled out. More complex than landing on the moon, more difficult than climbing Mount Everest, loving is, and always will be, our greatest challenge.
On tax day, 1965, Jackie DeShannon released a song composed by Hal David and Burt Bacharach which went to the top of the music charts. Its message was simple, and seemed so appropriate in a country divided by the Vietnam War. For 57 years now the simple message of Jesus put to a memorable song, is just as appropriate today as it will be 57 years from now: “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love, its the only thing that there’s just too little of…no not just for some, but for everyone.”
The challenge of loving should never keep us from trying to love our enemies, the disagreeable, the maligners, the gossipers, the purveyors of untruths. If there are things in our world that truly ail us, love is, quite simply, the antidote.