13 Jun Monday of Week Eleven
Ordinary Time resumes today, after the seasons of Lent and Eastertide. One may also select the texts for St Anthony of Padua, Franciscan, (Mass of a doctor of the church.)
2 Cor 6:1ff. Some paradoxes of the apostolate: labouring hard, yet being called imposters, being poor, yet enriching many.
Matthew 5:38ff. Instead of demanding “a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye” we are to offer the other cheek and go the extra mile.
The first readings convey a sense of helpless indignation. In Naboth (2*) we have an instance of a good and decent man, betrayed by his neighbours just to please the government (the royal pair). The tragedy begins in the greed of a king who always got what he wanted – like a spoiled child who never grew up. But why shouldn’t a king have whatever he wants? Hasn’t he the right to annex the neighbouring property of Naboth? The prophet Samuel had long ago warned against the claims of the kings who will rule them (1 Samuel 8:10-18); but the people would not listen to this warning and replied, “We must be like other nations, with a king to rule us and lead us in warfare and fight our battles.” This all seemed reasonable and perhaps necessary, for the Israelites needed someone to unite their forces against the Philistines who would otherwise drive them from the entire land.
When King Ahab asked to purchase Naboth’s vineyard at a handsome price, it showed he no longer appreciated the ancient religious traditions of the people, as Naboth himself did. An important norm of Israelite society was the attachment of a family to a particular piece of land, a heritage that must not be permanently alienated from its ancestral owners. The book of Leviticus (25:23-55) carefully stipulates the norms by which land was to be preserved within the larger family or clan. But what Naboth regarded as non-negotiable, Ahab waved aside as irrelevant and out-of-date. To deal with his opposition, Naboth was quickly entrapped in false accusations and stoned as a blasphemer, and even his neighbours connived in this unjust charade.
Some of Paul’s sentences , may convey the mind of Naboth and echo his despondent grief: “We are called imposters, and yet we are truthful; nobodies but in fact are well known; considered dead, yet here we are alive; punished, but not put to death; sorrowful, though always rejoicing; poor, yet enriching many; seeming to have nothing, yet everything is ours.” Naboth was courageous in standing firm against royal intrigue, bribery and threat. His unswerving obedience to an important social law secured immortality for himself and his family. Queen Jezebel thought that his name and property could be written out of the genealogies and history of the people. Yet Naboth’s name is forever remembered with honour, and his example spurs us to honesty and respect for our neighbour. As Paul wrote: “when poor, he enriches many; when called an imposter, he was truthful.” We rejoice to have such ancestral martyrs within our family of faith, and thank God for their inspiration.
While the king pouted like a spoiled child, lying down on his bed and turning away from his food, Naboth showed the quiet strength of a man who lived in the awareness of God. He did not cry out for revenge, but went far beyond the call of duty, more than the extra mile. He died for his principles and left us an example of heroism. Jesus’ ideals in the Sermon on the Mount are exemplified for us in a dramatic way by Naboth.
First Reading: 2 Co 6:1-10
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see – we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothin, and yet possessing everything.
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.