Fr. McNeeley’s Homily – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. William McNeeley
February 23 & 24, 2019

Audio recording:

“Judge not, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn others, that you may not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  Too often we fall into the trap of passing judgment on others because we do not understand the burdens they carry how they have suffered or are still suffering.  This is what makes social media so dangerous and destructive because we usually do not know the person on the other end of the conversation.  We do not know them, and we certainly don’t know what burdens they carry, or what emotional and spiritual scars they may still bear. Everyone has their own burden in life.  Everyone has their cross to bear.  We may not be able to see it, but everyone has one, whether it be on the outside for all to see or within hidden from the rest of the world.  If we understood what others have suffered, how they are still wounded souls, we would be much kinder and less quick to judge and condemn, even when they are wrong in our estimation.

For all of us who suffer, regardless of whether this is something life just threw at us, or it is injustice at the hands of others, are we going to let our hardship, our burdens in life define us and limit in how we live our lives and how we relate to others.  Will our hardship and suffering helps us to find the courage and strength to dig deep within that we make it into something positive?  Will we reach out and others who are struggling in life and become agents of change in our lives or will it become our excuse for self-pity and a “woe is me” mentality?  Too many times we opt for the latter.  The world thinks that the struggle between what is right and what is wrong is something that we have to sort out strictly between you and me.  The world does not understand is that there is a great cosmic struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.  The world is the battlefield, our lives are the skirmish line, and our souls are the spoils of that struggle.  Truth and goodness come from God and from him alone, and it’s not a like there is an angel is whispering in our right ear, and a devil whispering into our left.  It’s a question of how we respond to life’s difficulties and how we play the cards life deals to us.  It’s how we react to our trials and hardships.  Do we rise above them and make something positive out of our hardships or do we take the path of least resistance, do we lower ourselves to the level of those who have treated us unjustly.

That is why we must learn about virtue and the Church’s teachings, and that is why we must teach our children as well.  If we don’t teach our children right from wrong according to God’s law, trust me, someone else will show them their version of truth, goodness, right and wrong.  God’s law calls us to a higher morality and code of ethics and David’s response to Saul’s treachery is a case in point.  Saul is a tragic figure in the story of the Jewish people.  He was the last of the judges or chieftains during the tribal confederacy period, and he was also the first anointed King of Israel.  That would be a difficult transition for anyone to make. Saul was overwhelmed by black moods of periods of depression and even paranoia. Then along came David, who without trying, his charisma and his accomplishments, upstage Saul at every turn. These events pushed all the wrong buttons with Saul’s emotional, spiritual, and psychological well-being and the dark periods in his life were interspersed with confidence and self-assurance.  Throughout it all, he almost appears to be manic depressive. One day he is trying to kill David and the next we want to reconcile and make amends.  On more than one occasion Saul comes within a hair’s breadth of killing him, and that is the backdrop of today’s reading. Here in this reading, David refuses to kill the man who has been trying to kill him.  The only reason David does not kill Saul is that he understands that there is a higher law that according to that he cannot and must not harm God’s anointed.  Instead, David steals Saul’s spear and helmet to prove that he meant him no harm which made Saul feel guilty and remorseful, and the cycle would start all over again.  Is there anyone of us who has not been caught in a situation where we sought or even wanted to reconcile with another, but for whatever reason, it never worked out?  How do we break these cycles of reconciliation and conflict?  How do we find inner peace if we are unable to reconcile with another ultimately?  Even if we are not successful in reconciling with our neighbor or even our family sometimes, we can still pray for it, and in the end, God can reconcile in the life to come that which we can never do.

This emphasizes just how radically different God’s ways are to those of the world.  In this country we are going from “I disagree with you, I think you are wrong” to “You are wrong, and I will destroy you!”  God’s law is from everlasting, and it has taken centuries literally for humanity to take it in.  From the time of Saul and David to the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry would be 11 centuries before Jesus came into the world to teach us that it is not enough to love our neighbor and hate our enemies.  He taught us, and he showed us how we must love our enemies, do good to those who hate us and to bless those who persecute us.  That’s not easy because what I have learned is that turning the other cheek really hurts.  When I am attacked, I want to fight back.  When I am criticized, I want to justify myself, and when I am cheated of what is my due, I want justice.  Those are the ways of the world.  God’s law teaches us something different.

Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that evening the score means nothing, it gets us nothing, and if we let it, it will consume and destroy us.  If forgiving our enemies were easy everyone would be doing it.  The only way we can follow Jesus is by doing what he does, by being merciful, kind and forgiving, even when the other person doesn’t deserve it.  We are called to fulfill what will prove to be a life- long.  We must not judge, lest we are judged; we must not condemn, lest we be condemned. Forgive, and we will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to us, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over into your lap; for the measure we give is the measure we will receive.