Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 24, 2019
Last (Friday) night ABC aired an episode of “20/20” that told the story of a night of madness that came upon the community of Kalamazoo, Michigan three years ago. A man, Jason Dalton, an Uber driver, brought terror to the city as he randomly shot and killed six people over the course of a few hours, wounding two others. One of the victims who was shot and died that night was a woman by the name of Barb Hawthorne. She was my first cousin. Vengefulness is a strong feeling; it surprised me just how strong it was as I saw her picture on the screen of the TV and watched video of the scene of the shooting that I had never seen before and when hearing her nephew describe what happened that night. Justice takes on a whole different life when you are personally involved, doesn’t it!?
Vengeance: whether we are talking about random violence in our communities or war between nations. Or the war we wage on our neighbors after they blow their snow into our driveways. Or the idiot drivers with whom we are forced to share the winter roads. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about justice with immigrants and their legal or alien status, or justice that plays out within our families and the ways we alienate the very ones we love. It is the significant question that surrounds arguments over the death penalty and questions that often arise at work, with school policies and bullying, or the “Me,Too” movement or Black Lives Matter. It raises the question of when and how we choose to fight, and when and how we walk away from the fight, of personal rights verses common sense and human decency.
It is all a part of the complicated gift of human relationships and divine mystery; the challenge of bearing both the image of our earthly origin and the image of our heavenly origin.
Saul and his three thousand warriors were hunting down David; they had but one goal - to kill him. And they had every intention to fulfill that goal. But the hunter became the hunted when David snuck into the camp in the darkness of night and had the opportunity to nail Saul to the ground with his own sword while he slept. But he didn’t. Beyond self-preservation and revenge was David’s belief that justice would not be in his hands but would remain in the hands of God. Can you imagine how tough that must have been to walk away!
How difficult it is for us when we have every right and means and desire to get even, but choose not to exercise that right and means and desire. What a challenge it is for us, when the cards are in our favor to balance an injustice that has been dealt us, but we make the decision not to play our hand. How difficult it is for us to refrain from passing judgment when we have been misjudged, to not condemn even when we are in the right, or not to grasp on to what is rightfully ours after we have been denied it for so long.
Every relationship of love and family and neighbor and nation will face these moments. Every system of religion and politics and family will have to grapple with these choices, knowing that vengeance often masquerades as justice, clouding our measure with which we would want to be measured.
There are certainly many rules of life with which to guide our way, many of which are justified by civil law, politically acceptable and even sometimes advocated by religion. But there is one Gospel of Jesus Christ.