Homily for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: Compassion: The Characteristic Of God
By: Robert Kortey Apla-kweku
Homily for Sunday, February 24 2019
Readings: 1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-23/1 Corinthians 15:45-49/Luke 6:27-38
A certain monk was praying under a tree beside a river. As he prayed the tide was coming and the river was rising. Then he noticed a scorpion at the foot of the tree struggling for dear life as the surging waves tried to drown it. The monk stretched out his hand to pull the scorpion to safety but each time his hand came near the scorpion tried to sting him. A passerby saw what was going on and said to the monk: “What are you doing? Don’t you know that it is in the nature of a scorpion to sting?” “Yes,” replied the monk, “And it is my nature to save. Must I change my nature because the scorpion refuses to change its nature?” Today’s gospel urges Christians to remain true to their nature of love even when the people around them remain adamant in their nature of hate.
Others had said: “do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.” That is perhaps the basic law of manners and politeness. Jesus, characteristically, goes beyond this: Do to others… The Christian ethic is positive. It goes beyond “Thou shalt not…” to “Do …. “ It is activist. There is the story of the man who appeared at the gate of heaven asking to be let in. St Peter asked him why he thought he should be let in. The man answered: “my hands are clean.” “Yes,” answered Peter, “but they are empty!”
The Christian ethic always asks for more. Many people are puzzled and confused because Christian moral guides are sometimes slow to lay down a clear minimum which people must achieve to be justified. But Jesus asks for more. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” What is so special about that? Jesus asks for extra. We told his disciples: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Yet with those who tried and failed he was full of sympathy and compassion. He will never say “enough,” but he will not reject anyone who has failed and comes back to him.
David had his chance to kill his enemy before his enemy killed him, as Saul fully intended to do. But he held back and he would not take Saul’s life. The temptation to violence is an easy one. The world is full of wars and violent confrontations. We yield too readily to our instincts of aggression, where nation confronts nation in a balance of terrier, or violent confrontations between groups of citizens, or violence in the home. Education in peaceful means of solving interpersonal and inter- communal difficulties is one of the greatest needs of our age.
Compassion is the characteristic of God – even of the “Old Testament God” whom many commentators, following some early Christian heretics, like to portray as harsh and cruel. Our psalm, which comes from the Old Testament emphasises that God is not the seeker of vengeance that many people imagine him to be. He is not waiting and anxious to punish each and every fault, but he is concerned only to remove our sins and to make us one with him.
God’s love and goodness, his desire not to reject or to lose us, is shown most powerfully in what he has done for us in his Son Jesus Christ. He has made us into a new creation. He wishes to join us with him for an eternity of fulfilment and happiness. God’s compassion for sinful and unhappy humanity is the model of our compassion. St Matthew had said: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Chapter. 5:48.) St John said: “God is love” (1 John 4:7.) St Luke’s report of Jesus’ words is: “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”
We can more easily forgive and offer non- violence to our enemies – those who hate us, not those we hate – by reminding ourselves that they are acting in ignorance and that one day the truth will dawn on them. Non-violence is not limited to social movements; it is required also in family and interpersonal relationships where we can become victims of verbal and physical violence. While we should do all we can to put an end to an abusive situation, the gospel reminds us today that, in the words of Gandhi and King, an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. If there is in our lives a scorpion of hate that delights in stinging us, let us, like the monk, remain faithful to our commitment to love.
By: Robert Kortey Apla-kweku