Monday, June 16, 2014

Offer No Resistance

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

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.”  1 Kings 21:15

“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…Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”  Matthew 5:39,42

May our prayers today echo the thoughts of the psalmist.  At dawn and midday and noon and night, we bring our plea expectantly before the Lord for peace in our hearts and our heads and our world.  God delights not in wickedness but hates all evildoers like Ahab and Jezebel.  Cultivate a nature of peace within us and our nation as we look to the events unfolding around us.   

Can there be two more opposite readings paired in the liturgical calendar?  The reading from Matthew preaches altruism, generosity, obedience and humility.  The first reading from the Book of Kings tells the story of conniving, deceit, murder, false witness, conspiracy and theft. 
Jezebel outright manipulated the economic and social order, law, and religious observance to eliminate a faithful Israelite landowner who frustrates Ahab’s will.  Perhaps had Naboth been “generous,” and given his vineyard over to Ahab, then Jezebel would not have woven the plot against him.  But what made either of them feel entitled to own or obtain legally or otherwise, Naboth’s land?
Naboth did not have the legal right to sell the vineyard.  According to sources that explain the Jewish system of land tenure and distribution, land was held in common within a social unit such as the family. The ancestral land was not private property, to be sold at will by Naboth.  And both Ahab and Jezebel knew this.    
Matthew, on the other hand, explains the ideal of generosity in the face of the enemy and the person in need.  Rather than building up stores of riches, Jesus advocates for sharing everything – even the clothes on your back. 

This weekend, the drums of war were being beaten again and again over the situation in Iraq.  The situation calls to mind the analogy that former National Security Adviser Colin Powell told President George W. Bush.   In his advice to President Bush before the Iraq invasion in 2003, Powell warned the president of the Pottery Barn rule: you break it, you own it. The United States would be responsible, Powell implied, for whatever wreckage the military incurred in its headlong dash to unseat Saddam Hussein.
Now, after US troops pulled out of Iraq, unrest throughout the country is rampant and insurgents are tearing it apart at the borders.  The Iraqi army seems powerless to defend the country and the government is ineffective.
What should we do?  Clearly, we do not want to allow another nation to become the breeding ground for terrorists who are intent on attacking America or its allies and interests.  Yet, after more than ten years of occupation, thousands of lives lost, countless bodies maimed, and billions of dollars spent, we could not fix Iraq. 
St. Pope John Paul the Great spoke out strongly against a possible war in Iraq, saying military force must be “the very last option” and that its use would be a defeat for humanity.  Pope Francis echoes that call and just a week ago held a prayer summit in his garden.  He asks all people of good will to pray for peace in the Middle East rather than beating the drums of renewing a war in the cradle of civilization. 

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