1Kgs 21:1-16; Ps 5:2-3ab,4b-6a,6b-7; Mt 5:38-42
“At dawn I bring my plea expectantly before you.”
The psalm gives voice to the voiceless; it reveals the power of the powerless. Those who have nothing in this world, those who only have the LORD, have everything. In Christ we realize the faithful relevance of this psalm-prayer. We are blessed because we are poor in spirit. In our blessed poverty we have little to no influence over those who exert power in this world. Our only power is the power of prayer. With the psalm we pray pleading that the LORD listens to our groaning. The LORD who made heaven and earth, the seas and all that lives in them hears every desperate word and the wordless desperation of our sighing. He who heeds our call for help is the King and God of all. We come before the LORD at dawn bringing our pleas expectantly before him. This is the key to powerful prayer; it is expectant. We have every confidence that the LORD loves us and helps us in all our needs. The LORD does not delight in wickedness. All who remain in evil do not remain in God; they have no life in them. The arrogant and haughty do not stand for a millisecond in the sight of the Almighty. Those who choose evil again and again make themselves the enemy of God. He will not even let them speak in his presence. Their lies are silenced in the wonder and wisdom of the Word of God. The bloodthirsty and deceitful cannot bear the truth and love of the Holy One. Even though the powerful and deceitful seem to triumph over the Silent Christ, they are silenced by the thunder of his forgiveness and mercy. The bloodthirsty are made powerless by the outpouring from the side of the Crucified One. The Father heard and responded to the groaning of His Son, and in His Son we, too, are heard and raised on high from the cross of our suffering. Only in the silence of Christ before the powerful of his day can we hear the power of God’s Word. The Eternal Son of God took on all wickedness, evil, and arrogance, and triumphed over all his enemies in his resurrection. We share in this Paschal Mystery by our baptism. Through Him, with Him, and in Him we are confident and unafraid of all the bloodthirsty and deceitful. Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, may have triumphed through the deceit of his wife, Jezebel, but that victory did not last. Even the bloodthirsty, who forced the Lord Jesus to carry his cross, fled in fear upon his death when the sky darkened and the earth opened. Only the King of Love on Calvary could command us to do what he did, turn the other cheek.
In every age those who have much want more. Naboth the Jezeelite had the courage to stand up to the injustice of King Ahab. The King had more than enough land, but he wanted the family inheritance of Naboth. Such greed had griped the King that he was sick with envy and overcome by his desire to have what he wanted. His queen, Jezebel, was even more deceitful and wicked than he was. She used her influence and the king’s seal to command the people to falsely accuse Naboth and have him stoned to death. This story is the endless story of those in authority using their power to get what they want even if it demands the death of the innocent. Even among the chosen people, even among the beloved sons of Israel, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The LORD had chosen Israel to reveal his justice and holiness to the nations, and this king and queen of Israel acted just like the pagan nations surrounding them. They were unfaithful to the covenant; they were captives of greed. This story is a painful reminder of the depths to which every nation will plunge if it does not hear and heed the Word of the LORD. Indeed, we need to read and ponder the mystery of evil still so attractive and active in our world today. The deceit of the powerful in every generation must be exposed and opposed by those who are truly powerful in the love of God. It is this power alone that will enable justice to triumph and peace to prevail. Not until the True and Faithful King of Israel, Jesus Christ, do we come to know the true power of love. Only in the Crucified One is the mystery of evil unmasked; only when the Lord Jesus turns the other cheek do we come to know the power of severe mercy.
What does the Divine Teacher, the New Moses, mean by his command, “offer no resistance to one who is evil?” Would he tell Nabor not to refuse his inheritance to the evil king? Where is the wisdom here? If the Jezreelite had not opposed King Ahab he might have survived. However, in the pride-based culture of his time could he have continued to live without his inheritance? Perhaps, the Lord Jesus would have asked Nabor, “What is more important your life or your land”? The Lord Jesus recognized the wisdom of the ancients in quoting, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Indeed, this old law was an enlightened attempt to curb the wrath of one who lost an eye that he might not kill the offender. However, the Lord Jesus summons those who would be his disciples to a more profound response to injustice. Such a response seems foolish from the prospective of the world. If one cannot see beyond his rights to property, he will be blinded to the greater value of life itself. Perhaps the world would be a very different place if everyone did not react out of a sense of right and wrong that is limited to this world. Does our demanding what belongs to us, property or even respect, result in justice and peace? Perhaps the only way to awaken the conscience of evil men and women is to confront them with what they least expect, kindness and generosity. The Lord Jesus does not demand of his disciples anything that he, himself, is not willing to do. Indeed, the Crucified Lord willingly surrenders his life to the unjust demands of the mob. In this self-sacrificing love a new way of being human is revealed. Only those who are one with Christ, only those who are a new creation, will be able to offer even the most precious gift of their lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God. It is the witness of martyrs in every generation of the Church who bear witness to the truth of today’s gospel. Only such a beautiful love could bear the truth so sublime.