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Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year C

By Father Donald Dilger
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Father Donald Dilger

SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C

1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38 

The first reading is part of a long struggle between Saul, the first king of Israel, and David, a young and ambitious upstart from Bethlehem. Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin: David from the tribe of Judah. David had become a young hero by defeating and dispatching the giant Goliath. After this, David developed into a successful warrior in Saul’s army. The growing popularity of David aroused jealousy in King Saul. The women sang a hit tune of the day that praised Saul but praised David more. Saul suspected rightly that David intended to be his successor. The authors of the Books of Samuel legitimize David’s not-so-secret plotting by depicting God’s rejection of Saul, and Samuel’s anointing of David as legitimate king. Saul initiates attempts on David’s life, but without success. Because of the danger to his life David goes rogue. Saul becomes relentless in his homicidal pursuit of David.

The story of today’s first reading narrates one of Saul’s expeditions in pursuit of David. While Saul and his soldiers were in camp and sleeping, David and a friend walked among them and found the sleeping King Saul. David’s friend offers to kill Saul, but David forbids it, saying,

“Who can lay hands on the anointed of the Lord and remain unpunished?” Instead of killing the king, David took Saul’s spear and water jug (canteen), and he and his friend left Saul’s camp.

They crossed a valley, and from an opposite slope or hill far enough away to be safe, David cried out, “Here is the king’s spear. Let an attendant come over and get it.” He reminded Saul that he could have killed him, but “I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.” Why is this story part of today’s liturgy? What theme does it have in common with today’s gospel reading? It demonstrates David’s mercy toward a man who wants to kill him. The gospel teaches, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.”

The Responsorial Psalm, 103, continues the theme of mercy. It speaks of the of the Lord pardoning sins, healing sickness, rescuing from destruction. The Lord is “slow to anger, abounding in kindness, does not punish us as we deserve, puts away our sins, has compassion on those who revere him.” The People’s Response, “The Lord is kind and merciful.” The second reading continues a series of readings from 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s chapter on Jesus’ resurrection and our resurrection from the dead. Paul’s ideas in this section of the chapter are difficult. The Fathers of the Church are not a great help in this instance. However St. Ambrose, 340-397, makes the most sense. “It is not the spiritual that comes first, but the physical, then the spiritual. The last one is like the sum of the whole. He . . . dwells in all the elements. The second man from heaven, the resurrected, heavenly man, lives amid beasts, swims with fish, flies above the birds, talks with angels, dwells on earth, does battle in heaven, ploughs the sea, feeds in the air, is a tiller of the soil, a traveler on the deep, a fisher in streams, . . . an heir in heaven, a joint heir with Christ.” With due reverence to the great Ambrose, does this quote solve anything?

Moving on to the gospel, we have a long series of guides to Christian conduct attributed to Jesus.

They are all familiar to us from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mountain. Here we have them in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. The fact that they are almost identical in the two gospels indicates that Matthew and Luke were using the same source for their material. This lost source is known as “Gospel Q.”  The “Q” stands for the German word Quelle meaning “source,” hypothesis of the existence of this gospel was first proposed by a German scholar, therefore “Quelle.” Anyone who can really live by the conduct proposed in this gospel reading could not possibly avoid sainthood. We can all attempt and sometimes succeed to live by these proposals, but surely it is impossible except by the grace of God. Let’s take a look. Love one’s enemies. Do good to those who hate us. St. Paul has an interesting comment on the latter in Romans 12:20. Speaking of feeding one’s enemies, Paul adds, “By so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head,”

Struck on the cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone takes your coat, offer also your shirt.

Give to anyone who asks. Difficult at times, especially giving to those who stand at busy inter-sections with signs proclaiming their status and needs. If someone takes away from you, let them take it. Luke tells us we do not want to be like the rest of sinners who do love each other but no one beyond them. Then comes a gem of a saying we can understand and can do, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” That does help make sense of all the above. There is more about what sinners do, implying that Christians must do better. Sinners lend money to those from whom they expect the money to be returned.

The theme is repeated, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.” The reason for this repetition — it leads to the outcome for those who do all the above. “Your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High (God), who himself is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Again the theme of the first reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the People’s Response: “Be merciful,” just like the heavenly Father is merciful. Luke closes with sayings that can be called the promises of mutuality. Judging others only brings judgment on oneself. The result of not forgiving others — God will not forgive you. Giving generously will bring lavish generosity upon oneself .  These are the proposals, the guidelines, the rules of conduct which produced saints and will produce more. The key is the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Perhaps another saying of Jesus from a different context should be added, “Not all can receive these sayings, but only those to whom it has been granted. Those who can receive this, let them receive it.”