Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time • Year C

Kevin M. DePrinzio, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

1 Sam 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23
Psalm 103:1-4,8,10,12-13
1 Cor 15:45-49
Luke 6:17, 27-38

All across the globe already today a child with tears in his or her eyes points to another little boy or girl and says, “But he started it!” Or, “She did it first!” We know it all too well, perhaps we even chuckle and think of our own childhoods, when we first played the blame game. I can remember many times when I was playing with my brother – and somehow I took one of his toys, or he took one of mine – my goal was to be the first one crying. I was typically pretty good at this, being the younger brother and all, and easily able to blame him.

The blame game, of course, doesn’t stop in childhood, nor does it belong to any one culture; it is universal and is experienced and expressed in a variety of ways. We participate in it all the time, at different levels, of course, but it is common to us all nonetheless: when we make a mistake, and don’t want to admit it or own up to it; when we walk away from one another because of a disagreement and give the silent treatment; when relationships or friendships fall apart, and we part from another’s company; violence in our streets; war. The list goes on. All of these are variations of that childhood experience of pointing fingers. I’m somehow reminded of Billy Joel’s hit from the early 90s, “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the world’s been turning.”

Enter Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus whom we encounter in today’s gospel, the Jesus who says, “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Maybe even, “Stop pointing fingers.” This is a tough Gospel, difficult, in fact, to hear – I think not just for the original audience of those words, but all of us, no matter where we are in our lives, this is hard gospel stuff. And it is difficult to put into practice. And to hear “The Gospel of the Lord” right after that is really something. It just stays with us, and perhaps not necessarily in a good way. We simply want to dismiss it, or intellectualize it.

Certainly, too often these words of Jesus have been used – or really misused and abused – not to create and restore relationships of justice and peace, but to keep people in (and bring them further into) unjust, unhealthy situations. At the same time, this gospel has also been used to promote a saccharine Christian spirituality, one that says, “Well, we just turn the other cheek, and we just love one another.”

Neither approach captures the true “pointing of fingers” of Jesus’ litany today, for the person of Jesus was not, is not about injustice and abuse nor lovey-dovey spirituality. Instead, Jesus was about the real stuff of life: the tensions we hold, the healing of relationships – on all levels, among families and friends, between the rich and the poor, between nations and cultures at war with one another. And he does not claim this to be an easy task. He challenged his disciples then, and challenges us now, to love – to love as God loves, a love that is not unjust or abusive, a love that is not sugar-coated, a love that is so deep, so unconditional, so cruciform, that it directs, pulls, and challenges the other to be who they have been really called to be, a person made in God’s image and likeness.

This is a love that doesn’t point fingers; it’s a love that pulls and pushes in the direction of all that is of God and from God. Each one of us is meant to do great things with our lives, for God’s greater glory, for the glory of humanity, of our world. As we hear in our first reading from Samuel, it is a love that, no matter how difficult it is to bear and express, in the end brings “no harm to God’s anointed.” And the hard truth of the Gospel is that we are all God’s anointed, God’s beloved. Where does the challenge of today’s gospel hit home in our lives? What healing needs to take place? What healing can we point to in our lives? How are we being called to pull God’s love out of another, or even from our own hearts?

This is the recipe of the Eucharist. In the breaking of the bread, we acknowledge our own brokenness and each other’s brokenness. A brokenness that is held up and so daringly claimed to reveal the loving, Real Presence of Christ. Our need for and desire of healing is expressed as we all come forward humbly to the table. In the words of St. Augustine, may we make our Amen true this day.