A Dominican Sister reflects on the Readings for the seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
1Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 Luke 6 27-38
Both books of Samuel, which will develop into King David’s leadership, failure, and reconciliation, portray God’s patience with Israel’s leaders. The leaders show promise, they rise to the call, and they fall short. And still, they end up serving God’s intentions.
And isn’t this true of us, over and over? In spite of ourselves, our missteps, our wrong turns, God does not give up on us. That’s especially apparent as we read the high demands of love described in the Luke’s sermon on the plain.
As I read this, I can honestly say, “I humbly confess my faults.” I have often failed! We know that Luke’s audience hears the ideal, the ideal community as in the Acts of the Apostles and, in this narrative. the ideal disciple.
I also discovered that the admonition sometimes uses a singular YOU, and sometimes a plural YOU. The singular YOU calls us to generosity, forbearance, giving selflessly, and not demanding paybacks (or even gratitude).
An example of singular response…
My dad had a shop on a street in Detroit that was bus route. There was regular foot traffic passing by his shop. From time to time someone (usually a man) would come in and ask for some money for the proverbial “cup of coffee.” And he would give the fellow a dollar or two. Often there’d be the suspicion that it wasn’t coffee the fellow needed.
When we were teenagers, my brother and I would question my dad, calling out his naivete. Without being “teachy” (and he would never have quoted Scripture) he would always respond like this: It’s not my responsibility to be sure how the fellow uses the money; it IS my responsibility to be generous.
Without knowing Luke, my dad understood this singular instruction.
The use of the plural YOU, challenges us to absorb hatred, curses, and mistreatment. This can only be endured within a supportive community. Together we can muster the support and fortitude to withstand this kind of abuse, because we have sisters and brothers of like mind and heart who will provide a healing homecoming.
The bottom line is that we, singular or plural, are called to be compassionate as our God is compassionate (Matthew’s Gospel calls us to be perfect. Perfection is more than God expects of us.) But Luke takes us to the heart! Can we be compassionate about our adversaries? Can we grasp this deep truth (as articulated by Valarie Kaur? There are no enemies – just hidden woundedness.
What a liberation we might experience if we looked at white supremacists as wounded, greedy politicians as wounded, purveyors of journalistic spin and lies as wounded. When Pope Francis described the church as a field hospital where the wounded are tended and healed, many of us may have characterized the wounded as the materially poor, the refugee, the oppressed, which we ourselves cannot reach. Of course, the Pope’s call was to the these wounded because we are called to find care for persons who are marginalized by our societal values.
But also, our encounter with the wounded may fall closer to home. Can we see a short-tempered co-worker as wounded, an argumentative sister as wounded, or a monotonous storytelling relative as wounded? Fill in the blank. There are no enemies, only those with hidden wounds.
We know our own woundedness and we are consoled by God’s compassion for ourselves and we often give lip service to God’s compassion for our enemies. We Dominicans are quite good using our heads! We study, write, teach; we may even hang up diplomas.
We’re good at using our hands! We’ve committed ourselves to service, outreach, making a difference in the daily life of others. We’ve proven our commitment to using our hands. Now it might be our hearts that need God’s compassion for ourselves as well as for others. In Luke’s words, “Be compassionate as our God is compassionate.”
Our challenge today? Being compassionate toward those who persecute or annoy us, those who strike us on the cheek or strike us down in a conversation, those who demand a cloak or too much of our time or patience
Imagine the power we could unleash if we reframed frustrations with our adversaries into compassion for their hidden woundedness one thought, one act, one letter or call, one prayer at a time.
Mary Ann Dixon, OP