1 Kgs 21:17-29; Ps 51:3-6ab,11,16; Mt 5:43-48
“Then my tongue shall revel in your justice”
When will our tongues revel in the justice of God? Only when we have cried out for mercy, will we delight in God’s justice and live in his peace. At every Mass we pray for mercy. Some have asked, “why”? Why do you continue to pray “Lord have mercy” “Christ have mercy” “Lord have mercy”? Don’t you believe in the mercy of the LORD? We cry out for mercy as each Mass begins and before we approach Holy Communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you; only speak the word and I shall be healed.” These prayers for mercy arise out of today’s psalm and out of our honest self-examination. We continue to ask for mercy because we continue to need mercy. The LORD in his great compassion wipes out our offense. The LORD thoroughly washes us from guilt. In true humility we acknowledge our offenses, and we keep our sin before us always. For unknown reasons we continue to sin; we continue to do what is evil in his sight. Only when the LORD turns away his face from our sins is our guilt blotted out. Even the sins of our ancestors and our relatives stain us, and we feel guilty. Indeed, our prayer for mercy is already the gift of his mercy. Even our desire to be holy is itself his gift. Indeed, our ongoing repentance reveals his constant faithfulness to those who love him, and those who make themselves his enemy he continues to love. Indeed, the LORD cannot not love, because “God is love.” Even the wicked king, Ahab, receives the tender mercy of God. The Lord Jesus wants us to express this unconditional love because he has first loved us we must love even our enemies. We can never take the LORD’s love and mercy for granted, indeed, it is the only way for us to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.
The abuse of power that enabled King Ahab to take possession of the vineyard of Naboth is abhorrent to the LORD. The Prophet Elijah is sent to reveal the consequences of such horror. Injustice and greed will not continue to triumph in Israel. At least this ruler without a conscience will be punished. The King seems surprised that the Prophet would know of his evil deeds. After Elijah questions him about murdering and taking possession the King responds, “Have you found me out, my enemy?” Again and again throughout the history of the bible, prophets are seen by the powerful as enemies. The real enemy of Ahab and of all sinners is not the prophet who speaks a word of judgment. The real enemy of sinners is sin and the evil one. We continue to be our own worst enemies because we continue to fool ourselves; thinking not aright, “the LORD does not see; He takes no heed!” The LORD God Almighty loves us too much to leave us in our sins. He sends prophets among us to wake us up to the consequences of sin, even if we do not like the prophet’s message. Elijah’s word has a profound effect upon Ahab; “He tore his garments, put on sackcloth, fasted from food, slept in the sackcloth, and went about subdued”. The Almighty did not ignore such behavior, and he saw in these actions the repentance of a king’s heart. The LORD summoned his prophet and gave him another message for the king, “I will not bring the evil in his time. I will bring the evil upon his house during the reign of his son.” Even this miserable sinner receives mercy, undeserved and unmerited mercy; indeed it is nothing less than severe mercy. We, too, can expect nothing less. The LORD is kind and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. The mercy of the LORD makes our lives livable and even joyous. It is this very same mercy that we must not withhold from anyone who has offended us. Such is the demand of the Just Judge, Jesus Christ.
The LORD does not hesitate to identify and destroy his enemies throughout the Old Testament, but this is not the message of his Son, Jesus. The Lord Jesus is not afraid to challenge and confront those who resist his teaching and ministry, but it is his love for his enemies that leads him to the cross and to his proclamation from the cross, “Father forgive them; they know not what they do.” To all who would be his disciples the Lord Jesus says that it is not enough to love our neighbor and hate our enemy. We are commanded to love our enemies. This is not a recommendation. It is a requirement for those who follow Christ. How are we to do this? We have the motivation to love our enemies as Saint Paul explains because, while we were still enemies of the LORD, He loved us and sent his most precious Son to die for our redemption. If God so loved us, how can we not love, even our enemies? Indeed, only by loving our enemies do they have a hope for salvation. Only by loving those who hate us do they and we have any chance of eternal life. No one, not even God can force those who do evil to change. However, by loving them we can shake up their false and twisted worldview. Only by acts of prayer and penance for those who hate us will we reveal the truth that sets everyone free. Only by forgiving those who do not deserve and have never asked for our forgiveness, and would probably never ask for our forgiveness, can we change the status quo. The way things are cannot remain the same under the severe mercy of Christ present and active the lives of his saints. This startling love is most clearly present in those who continue to suffer and even die as a result of such kindness and mercy. The witness of those who die for the love of God and neighbor is the only power that can change the way things are. Indeed, it is the only revolution in history. Every other so-called revolution is only a change of one oppressive power group to another and equally oppressive power group. Today, then we must begin to pray for those who persecute us in every nation, even those who see our power to forgive as a sign of weakness and cowardliness.