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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (1Kgs 21:1-16): Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel next to the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, «Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it is close by, next to my house. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money». Naboth answered him, «The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage». Ahab went home disturbed and angry at the answer Naboth the Jezreelite had made to him: «I will not give you my ancestral heritage». Lying down on his bed, he turned away from food and would not eat.

His wife Jezebel came to him and said to him, «Why are you so angry that you will not eat?». He answered her, «Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Sell me your vineyard, or, if you prefer, I will give you a vineyard in exchange’. But he refused to let me have his vineyard». His wife Jezebel said to him, «A fine ruler over Israel you are indeed! Get up. Eat and be cheerful. I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you». So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and, having sealed them with his seal, sent them to the elders and to the nobles who lived in the same city with Naboth. This is what she wrote in the letters: «Proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. Next, get two scoundrels to face him and accuse him of having cursed God and king. Then take him out and stone him to death».

His fellow citizens —the elders and nobles who dwelt in his city— did as Jezebel had ordered them in writing, through the letters she had sent them. They proclaimed a fast and placed Naboth at the head of the people. Two scoundrels came in and confronted him with the accusation, «Naboth has cursed God and king». And they led him out of the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent the information to Jezebel that Naboth had been stoned to death.

When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, «Go on, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you, because Naboth is not alive, but dead». On hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
Responsorial Psalm: 5
R/. Lord, listen to my groaning.
Hearken to my words, o Lord, attend to my sighing. Heed my call for help, my king and my God!

At dawn I bring my plea expectantly before you. For you, O God, delight not in wickedness; no evil man remains with you; the arrogant may not stand in your sight.

You hate all evildoers. You destroy all who speak falsehood; the bloodthirsty and the deceitful the Lord abhors.
Versicle before the Gospel (Ps 118:105): Alleluia. A lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mt 5:38-42): Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

“But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil”

Fr. Joaquim MESEGUER García (Rubí, Barcelona, Spain)

Today, Jesus teaches us that forgiveness can overcome hate. Talion's law meant some progress, as it limited the wish to retaliate down to a fair proportion: do unto others as you would have them to, unto you; otherwise, it would be unfairness; this is what the aphorism “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” actually means. It was, however, a limited progress, as Jesus Christ emphasizes in the Gospel the need that love overcomes revenge; this is how He expressed it when, on his Cross, He interceded for his executioners: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).

Nevertheless, truth should always accompany forgiveness. We do not just forgive because we feel helpless or gravely embarrassed. Quite often, the expression “to turn the other cheek” is misinterpreted as waiving our legitimate rights; certainly, nothing of the sort. To turn the other cheek means to denounce and question whoever has done the injustice committed with a peaceful but categorical gesture; it is like saying: ”You slapped me on the cheek, ¿now what, you want to slap me on the other too? Do you really think you are behaving rightly?.” Jesus replied serenely to the high priest's rude servant: “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Jn 18:23).

We can, therefore, see what our Christian behavior must be: not to retaliate, but to stay firm; to be open to forgiveness but clearly say things. It is certainly not an easy task to accomplish, but it is the only way to put a stop to violence and show the world the Divine Grace it is lacking of, so often. St. Basil advises us: “Believe me and you will forget the offences and insults you get from your fellow man. You will see how differently you will be named; he will be called angry and violent while you will be cited as meek and peaceful. One day, he will repent of his violence, but you will never regret your meekness.”

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “Therefore, in this kind of injuries which are wont to rouse vengeance Christians will observe such a mean, that hate shall not be caused by the injuries they may receive.” (Saint Augustine)

  • “In the Gospel Jesus also speaks to us of holiness, and explains to us the new law, his law. We are required not only to avoid repaying others the evil they have done to us, but also to seek generously to do good to them.” (Francis)

  • “Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that ‘everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity’ (Vatican II) (...)” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nº 1931)