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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Year of Luke

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A reading from the first book of Samuel

26:2. 7-9.12-13. 22-23


Responsorial Psalm     Psalm 103:1-4. 8. 10. 12-13. R/. v 8

A reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians


A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke


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I warn everyone

who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:

if anyone adds to them, God will add to him

the plagues described in this book,

and if anyone takes away from the words

of the book of this prophecy,

God will take away

his share in the tree of life

and in the holy city,

which are described in this book.

     Revelation 22:18-20

The Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse (as it is sometimes called) ends with a dire warning.  Anyone who hears the words of this prophetical book and adds or takes away from them, then be prepared for God’s punishment.  There will be no share in the tree of life, no place in the heavenly Jerusalem.

 When we reach the Seventh Sunday of Easter in this Year C of the Lectionary we will find that the second reading is the paragraph from which these words are taken.  But the words of warning quoted above are omitted. Sadly I must conclude that the men who produced our Lectionary are not sharing in the tree of life nor do they inhabit the holy city of God.

  What goes for the Book of Revelation must hold true for all of Holy Scripture.  We must listen and learn, we must wonder and pray, and we must allow God’s words to shape our lives. But we must not so edit what we hear and what we read so as to distort what the Bible teaches.  We must not bend the words to bolster our opinions or warp them to conform to our prejudices.

  Yet this, as we shall see below, is what happens in today’s reading from the First Book of Samuel.

A reading from the first book of Samuel

26:2. 7-9.12-13. 22-23

Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph.

  So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him.

  Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?”

 So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul's head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.

   Then David went over to the other side and stood far off on the top of the hill, with a great space between them. And David called out: “See here is the king's spear”. Saul recognized David's voice and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” And he said, “Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done?  What evil is on my hands?

“Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and take it. The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.”

The word of the Lord.

David the King presided over a murderous household.  His own life was littered with deceit and destruction.  He even fought on behalf of the Philistines, the deadly enemies of his people.  In order to bed Bathsheba he had her husband murdered, an honourable man who was fighting David’s enemies at the time.  The sordid story is told in the Second Book of Samuel, chapter 11 and 12.

  The most godless story in the Bible is the rape of Tamar, a daughter of David.  The account of the event is in chapter 13 of Second Samuel. The consequences of that sordid crime are narrated in the next five chapters (chapters 14 to 18).

  Briefly, Amnon, David’s eldest son and heir, with advice from his crafty uncle contrived to lure his half-sister Tamar to visit him as he lay in bed pretending to be sick. When she came with some cakes she had kindly made he raped this royal princess.  When her father, the great King David was told what his son had done, he was angry but did nothing. After all, she was only a woman.

  But Absalom, David’s third son and Tamar’s brother took the violated woman into his home and away from public disgrace.  Then when an opportunity arose, he had his half-brother, the heir to the throne, murdered. When, after three sons, Absalom had a baby girl, he called her Tamar.  The Bible adds these words: she was a beautiful woman (Second Samuel 14:27).

  Of course, the murder led to a rebellion against his father and the long story ends when Joab, David’s battle-hardened and recklessly violent army commander, defeated Absalom and the young man was killed fleeing the field.  When David heard the news he went out to the city gates mourning in public the death of his dear son:

O my son Absalom,

my son, my son Absalom!

Would I had died instead of you,

O Absalom, my son, my son.  

Second Samuel 18:33

When Joab heard this he was furious.  He charged into the king and asked him what he was playing at.  For he well knew David the hypocrite, was making a public show of grief in order to distance himself from the death of a very highly regarded young prince.  Joab pointed out the facts: “Absalom instigated a rebellion. The soldiers under my command killed him. They saved you and your throne and many of my men died doing so. So get real.  Either you face the truth before the people and honour those who saved your skin or I am taking your army away from you”. David did what he was told.

 Skipping over many more crimes of David, on his deathbed, he gave some fatherly advice to his son Solomon who had already been crowned as the new king. His advice is not the passing of wisdom from father to son.  It is this:

Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his grey head go down to Sheol in peace.

First Book of Kings 2:5-6  

And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword’. Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his grey head down with blood to Sheol.

First Book of Kings 2:8-9

  Today’s Lectionary reading edits the story of David coming across King Saul and refraining from killing him because the King is “the Lord’s anointed”.  This is the second time such an incident is recorded (see First Samuel 24). But the fact is that David was a highly political animal and, while I wouldn’t swear that he killed Goliath, David was careful in making his way to the throne.  I do not think that when you read the whole David saga, you will want to carve on his grave stone that here lies a man who

Loved his enemies,

Did good to those who hated him,

Prayed for those who persecuted him.

And yet I have to admit that First Samuel 13:14 might be referring to the future David the King:

The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people …

However I am not convinced that David went about advising people to “be merciful as your Father is merciful”.

David may not have raised his hand against King Saul but he certainly saw to it that Uriah the Hittite, an honourable man among the most honourable in the Bible, was killed so that he could have his way with Bathsheba.

  To be sure, after his death David became the ideal king who brought about peace and stability to his people.  He became not only the hero of the past but also the Messiah of the future. Around David the imaginary glorious king was woven a vision of the future.  Jesus inherited the cloak of David and, indeed, he was descended from the union of David and Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6). The aspirations of the people were built around an idealised David and Jesus son of Mary became Jesus Son of David (see Luke 1:32; 18:38; 20:42-44, among many such references linking David and Jesus).  

  To get matters into a proper perspective it is always necessary to be aware of the context.  We must read the whole David story—what David was and what he became in the religious and political hopes and expectations of his people—in order to avoid bending the Bible text to make David a saint who lived by the portrait Jesus paints of the true saint in today’s Gospel.

Responsorial Psalm     Psalm 103:1-4. 8. 10. 12-13. R/. v 8

R/.  The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

                         and forget not all his benefits.                 R/.

The Lord forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

redeems your life from the pit,

           and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.    R/.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He does not deal with us according to our sins,

                nor repay us according to our iniquities.          R/.

As far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children,

so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

R/.  The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Surely the most profound hymn in the whole Book of Psalm?  People who sing this hymn are proclaiming that “every thing that is within me” is a praise of the Lord.  So long as we recognise everything that the Lord has given to us we acknowledge that our life is a perpetual blessing offered back to God.  This is an extraordinary claim. Yes, God,

forgives my sins

heals my hurts

redeems me from the emptiness of She’ol

crowns me with steadfast love

crowns me with mercy.

Living life conscious of what God gives me is to bless the Lord.  And there is more.  The Lord is

gracious to me

slow to be angry with me

not making me pay for my sins

removing my sins from me

showing me constant compassion.

So I can sing,

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

But I must be counted among “those who fear him”.  Surely not! Is my blessing no more than a platitude to disguise my fear of the Lord?  “Fear of the Lord” is not a trembling in terror.  It is a rich tapestry of understanding that we are made by God and belong to God.  It is a firm and resolute conviction that God is “Father of All”, that is, that God is the Supreme Carer of all creation, that creation is sustained by God’s parenting. Men and women have been given responsibility for creation alongside God and that is an awesome privilege and an alarming liability. We are called to do on earth what is done in heaven.  No wonder that we go about our responsibility with fear, fear that we fail, fear that we are weak in resolve, and fear that we abandon our liabilities or leave them to others. Yet our fear is tempered in the assurance of “your righteous help all the day long” (Psalm 71:24). Our prayers teach us the true state of affairs:

… the Lord values those who fear Him,

those who depend on His faithful care.

    Psalm 147:11

A reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians


   Thus it is written “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life- giving spirit.” But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

The word of the Lord.

Two sections of Paul’s chapter 15 have been omitted (vv. 20-34 and vv. 35-44) from the Lectionary.   The thread of Paul’s thought has been lost. Briefly, in vv. 20-34 he explains that as children of Adam we all die and most Jews at the time believed that was the end of the story.  But “Christ has been raised” and so “in Christ all will be made alive”. After an aside or two, in vv. 35-44 Paul attempts to answer the “how” question. “How are the dead raised” (v. 35).  His explanation is not very enlightening but it is full of Paul’s passionate faith. He explains, as so often in his writings, with a contrast. We die and our bodies are committed to the grave where they rot:  “What is sown is perishable” (15:42). That is a fact. But so is resurrection a fact. Paul almost makes a song of it in 15:42-44:

What is sown is mortal;

what rises is immortal.

What is sown is inglorious;

what rises is in glory.

What is sown is in weakness;

what rises is in power.

What is sown is an inanimate body;

what rises is a spiritual body.

All of which doesn’t tell us much since none of us have ever met an imperishable, spiritual body.  But we can see where he is going. The resurrection is God’s answer to death and since Christ is raised so all who die in Christ are raised.  Resurrection, of Jesus and of everyone else, is a creative act of God. It is this that Paul attempts to explain in our reading today.

  Paul goes back to the Bible’s picture of the beginnings of humanity:  Adam became a living being. In the words of the Book of Genesis 2:7,

… the Lord God formed man (‘adam’) from the dust of the earth (‘adamah’) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Thus humanity, men and women, are of the earth.  But God breathes the breath of life into the dust of the earth transforming the piece of earthly dust into a living being.  Our “livingness” is a gift of God. Life itself is sustained by the Lord God.

  But there is a second Adam, not of the dust of the earth, but is of the spirit.  The second man is from heaven, that is, not “a man of dust”. So those who “belong to Christ” (15:23) are raised from among the dead and will have a new image, the image of the spiritual man, the man of heaven.  

  Unfortunately, a few more verses are dropped and it becomes that much harder to grasp Paul’s profound meditation and his determination to convince everyone in the house-churches of Corinth that “death is swallowed up in victory” (15:54).


A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke


Jesus said “I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Seven times a day I praise you

for your righteous statutes.

Great peace have those who love your law;

nothing can make them stumble.

I hope for your salvation, O Lord,

and I do your commandments.

My soul keeps your testimonies;

I love them exceedingly.

I keep your precepts and testimonies,

for all my ways are before you.

Psalm 119:164-168

During the hours of night and day monks stop to pray seven times.  Those who pray the Divine Office in the Breviary know that there are seven distinct ‘hours’ of prayer. What Psalm 119, the longest of all the psalms, celebrates is the torah, the Law of God, the teaching handed down from the days Moses received the tablets of stone on Mount Sinai.  The torah, the way of life, is praised because it creates God’s life-giving presence in the community of people.  Faithful adherence to God’s torah is a source of delight, mentioned 8 times in the psalm.  A few examples:

I will meditate on your precepts

and fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

Psalm 119:16

I find my delight in your commandments,

which I love.

Psalm 119:47

Trouble and anguish have found me out,

but your commandments are my delight.

Psalm 119:143.

  Jesus comes down the mountain and standing in the midst of the disciples and people he presents the life-giving torah to the people who come to him. They will form everywhere in the world communities who will live the life of the Spirit, the very life of God.  Jesus outlines the way of God with the world, and enjoins on those who hear his voice to adopt that as their way. To be God-like in the world was the way of Jesus and to create people of the Way (Acts 24:14) was his concern:

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Luke 9:23-24

  Look what is demanded of us by Jesus:

Love your enemies.

Do good to those who hate you.

Bless those who curse you.

Pray for those who abuse you.

Turn the other cheek.

Give to everyone who begs of you.

There is a principle underlying these demands of Jesus:

     As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Luke 9:31

Living the torah of God, of Jesus, of Luke, has its rewards:

  A great reward.

  You will be sons and daughters of the Most High.

Luke 9:35

There is a principle underlying this, too:

     Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:36

There are other precepts in this torah:

Judge not.

Condemn not.


Of course these laws of the new way come with rewards:

   You will not be judged.

   You will not be condemned.

   You will be forgiven.

And, again, a principle:

     The measure you give will be the measure you get.

Luke 6:38

  What is astonishing is how utterly worldly this new way of life, this torah of God, is.  There is hardly a conflict in our world that would not be ended by the torah of Jesus.  There is hardly a family conflict that would not be brought to love if the torah of God were brought to bear.  What is clear is that what is essentially human is essentially Christian.  When Luke’s Jesus comes down from the mountain and speaks plainly on the plain he is telling us how to live if we are to be fully human, fully alive.  

Joseph O’Hanlon