June 15, 2020 – Monday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061520.cfm)
Violent, cruel, brutal and merciless are some of the words we could describe on what happened with Naboth the Jezreelite. A man who refused to give up his ancestral heritage was falsely accused, treated with so much brutality, viciously framed for a crime he did not commit and murdered in daylight by the minions of Jezebel.
No one stood for Naboth. Nobody dared to speak on his behalf. The minions just followed the order from above perhaps they too were more excited of what they can gain from participating in such crime.
Ahab, on the other hand though did not commit the crime directly but played passively. He was passive because he did not want to be involved himself. Yet, he did not also choose to stop Jezebel because he knew he would be able to benefit from such corrupt and murderous act of her wife.
This tells us really that no matter how much possessions we may have or no matter how secured we can be materially, or no matter how much power and influence we may possess, it does not mean that we will be satisfied. This has been shown already by Ahab even before the murder. Ahab was disturbed and angry because he did not get what he wanted though he did not need it. Thus, in that greed of Ahab through the cunning and vicious plans and actions of Jezebel, the little possession of Naboth was taken away from him including his life.
Is God then, blind to this kind of crime committed against the weak and powerless? Our Psalm proclaims to us today the prayer of a man like Naboth, “Lord, listen to my groaning.” This is an appeal to the Lord to listen to that groan filled with pain. It is a cry for help from a person who find life too much to bear because of the exploitation and abuse from others.
The author of the Psalm also recognized that indeed, the Lord is not blind or deaf to that painful groan for the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and the deceitful. This is the very image that Jezebel gained after that murderous act, bloodthirsty and deceitful.
However, what is more puzzling in today’s God’s invitation for us is what Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “offer no resistance to one who is evil.”
Does it mean that we become passive to the abuses committed against us, against the weak and the powerless? In the case of Naboth, it was perhaps even impossible to resist because the evil scheme against him was just too overwhelming. He was alone.
However, to offer no resistance to one who is evil has a deeper meaning. Not to resist to one who is evil, is not allowing evil to control us. Meaning, once we resist to one who is evil, this may bring us into the same position of the one who is evil. We shall tend to resort to the same violence, then. Hence, responding evil with evil or responding to violence with violence will only bring us into an endless cycle of evil and violence.
The wisdom of Jesus lies in the offer of peace. To offer the other cheek when someone strikes us on the right cheek, though this sounds ridiculous for many of us, is an opportunity for the one who hurt us to embrace peace and reconciliation. Peace and reconciliation is truly a difficult path. A very unpopular one. However, this is the only way to end the cycle violence and evil.
Moreover, this is not an excuse to just remain passive to the abuses and other forms of oppression. It does not mean that when your spouse physically abuse you, or a family member is sexually abusing you, or a friend or colleague is exploiting your goodness and generosity, that you remain passive and indifferent. The teaching of Jesus is meant to keep violence at the minimum and not to escalate more violence towards others and ourselves. In such situations, we are called to get out from the abusive relationship and to demand justice and show mercy.
To demand justice then is to make the perpetrator take the responsibility and consequences. To show mercy is to get rid of hatred and anger within our hearts for us to live free by offering peace and reconciliation towards those who have wronged us.
Therefore, God invites us today to live freely by not allowing evil to control us or to have an access to our hearts by holding on to grudges, hatred, anger and selfishness. God calls us to be more satisfied with what we have and to be grateful of the blessing God gave to us so that unlike Ahab, our hearts won’t grow ungrateful and corrupt. God calls us too that in the event when an evil act is committed against us, do not give a chance to evil to have a control over us by resorting to evil also. Jesus calls us to offer peace, not violence, not anger, not hatred, but also not for a passive peace or an indifferent one. Offer peace that gives and promotes life. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR