Today’s readings remind us that Our Lord has taught us a truly human way of living, giving us an example in his earthly life so that we gradually learn to treat others not necessarily as they treat us, but as how Our Lord would treat them.
In today’s First Reading not-yet-King David is being pursued by King Saul and an army because Saul is envious of David and knows he will deprive him of his throne. David and his men come upon Saul and his army while all are asleep, and he easily sneaks up to Saul himself. This is the second time David had a chance to ambush and kill Saul (cf. 1 Samuel 24). David spared his life to show his loyalty, and Saul acknowledged that he would one day be king and stopped pursuing him. Now Saul was pursuing him again, and David’s servant Abishai was urging him to do what he should have done the first time: slay his enemy while he had the chance.
David kept to a code that was more important than political expediency: if the Lord has not struck down his king, David would not do so either. When he spirits away Saul’s spear and water jug he has every right to gloat, but instead he appeals to Saul to see that David means him no harm and has no pretensions against his rule. David knew, and teaches us, that if we seek justice, we must remember that it is for the Lord to mete it out, not us.
In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that we have been made in the image and likeness of God and are called to show it. The first pages of Sacred Scripture teach us that Adam and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Then they Fell. Hard. Even the fallen humanity ushered in by Adam and Eve reflected God, but it also gave him a “bad name” in Creation. Not only was the image and likeness disfigured in them, but they were too wounded and weak to restore it.
Enter the new Adam: Jesus Christ, who not only showed us the true image and likeness of God to which we care called, but filled us with his Spirit so that we were capable of living it through a life of grace, transforming a simply “earthly” life gradually into a “heavenly one.” With the Incarnation of Our Lord we see that image and likeness taking flesh to show us what it means to be in the image and likeness of God. If a transformation in the Spirit is supposed to be taking place within us, then it should be reflected in our actions and attitudes toward others.
Our Lord in today’s Gospel teaches us how we should respond to being mistreated, a response aided by grace and the Spirit, rising above the fallen earthly attitude of just responding in kind. If David in today’s First Reading simply respected King Saul and wished him no harm, Our Lord teaches us more: to love those are enemies to us.
We were all enemies of Our Lord when he died for us (cf. Romans 5:8-11). He was subjected to blows, scourging, spitting, and ridicule and didn’t respond in kind. He was stripped of his clothing and his life was taken from him. He teaches us to “Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” but he qualifies that by saying we should not only love those who love us, but also those who hate us.
Do we expect to be loved? If we expect to be loved, why would we expect ourselves to be exempt from loving? What should move us to love instead is the fact that Our Lord and others love us even when we don’t love them in return. Not just as what is due to those who love us, but as the way to truly live in the image and likeness of God.
A serious obstacle to holiness is making enmity with someone a two-way street. Make a list in prayer this week of people who have wronged you or don’t seem to like you, either personally or as a Catholic. Transformation in Christ comes through effort and grace, so pray for each person on the list this week and make a conscious resolution to harbor no ill will toward them.
Readings: 1 Samuel 26:2, 7–9, 12–13, 22–23; Psalm 103:1–4, 8, 10, 12–13; 1 Corinthians 15:45–49; Luke 6:27–38.