Tuesday of the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time
Today we continue the story of the vineyard of Naboth. In the first reading, we hear of the aftermath of Ahab’s actions in the wrongful murder of Naboth and seizure of his vineyard. The prophet Elijah confronts him directly for his greed. “The Lord says: After murdering, do you also take possession?” (1 Kgs: 21:19). When Elijah places all of Ahab’s crimes before his eyes, he repents of his wrongdoing. The entrance antiphon which yesterday we placed upon the lips of Naboth has now become appropriate for Ahab: “O Lord, hear my voice, for I have called to you; be my help. Do not abandon or forsake me, O God, my Savior!” (Ps 26:7, 9). The responsorial psalm further recounts the prayer of this guilt-ridden man: “I acknowledge my offence and my sin is before me always: ‘Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight’” (Ps 51:5-6). In turn, the Lord withdraws his threats to destroy Ahab upon seeing him take this humble stance.
In today’s gospel from St. Matthew, we hear Jesus’ injunction: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” We are not told Naboth’s words as he was being stoned (see the first reading on Monday) but his utter silence may indicate that he had the same attitude as that of Jesus in praying for his persecutors: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). We are urged to imitate God’s mercy: “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). [St. Luke’s parallel saying is: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36)] God forgave Ahab. We are called to forgive those who have injured us and those who have hated us. This is the kind of love that pinches.
The alternate communion antiphon for the week seems to be the best summary of today’s liturgy: “Holy Father, keep in your name those you have given me, that they may be one as we are one, says the Lord” (Jn 17:11). This is Jesus’ prayer that his disciples will be as closely united to each other as he is to his Father. In order for that to happen, we must exhibit the merciful love of the Father—a love that extends to not only our friends and fellow believers, but especially to those we consider to be enemies. If we are to emulate God’s perfection, then we must practice God’s forgiveness, even of a man as wicked as Ahab. The exercise of this kind of love will bring about the unity for which Jesus prays.
Thought for today: Who are those people in my life to whom I am called to exercise divine forgiveness?
Reflection by Br. Michael Marcotte, OSB