To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Sam 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23;1 Cor 15:45-49; Lk 6:27-38
The readings of today place before us two ways of proceeding. The one which calls for achieving what one wants through violence, and the other which calls for a peaceful way of getting what one is entitled to.
These ways are narrated in the first reading of today and in the persons of Abishai and David. Abishai knows no other way but the way of violence to achieve his goal. Though David is aware of this way, he prefers to choose instead the way of peace and concord. Abishai’s way would have polarized David’s kingdom. It would have resulted in destroying the very thing that David hoped to gain. Aware of this David chooses the other way namely the way which seeks to acquire through peace, friendship and forgiveness.
This is also the way that Jesus proposes in the Gospel text of today, when he invites those who are willing to listen to him to love their enemies and to respond to violence with non violence. As a matter of fact, Jesus goes even further when he challenges his listeners to bless and pray for the very ones who are violent towards them.
This challenge is what Paul too places before the Corinthian community and us in the Second reading of today, when he makes a comparison between the first Adam and the new Adam. If the first Adam was limited, the new Adam Jesus Christ is beyond limit. If the first Adam was of the earth, Jesus Christ is from heaven and if the first Adam was physical and made from dust, Jesus is spiritual and from above. The challenge then is to be imitators of the new Adam Jesus Christ.
All too often non violence is seen as cowardice and weakness, and aggression and violence as courage and strength. However, this is far from the truth. It is in reality the aggressive and violent who are weak. To seize by force or violence the objects or goals we desire is often to destroy the very thing we expect to gain. This is true on the macro canvas of international disputes and also on the micro canvas of family dynamics. It is sad, however, that on both these levels the way of Abishai has prevailed and the majority seems to go that way. One does not need to look further than the nearest newspaper or Television channel relaying news to see how true this is. So many try to force their way through various degrees of physical, political, and emotional violence. We find it difficult to resist the temptation to force our will on others, to retaliate and even the score. However, as the readings today point out, there is an alternative way. This is the way of restraint that David practices. It is the way of forgiveness and non violence advocated by Jesus.
However, this alternative requires imaginative discernment of God at work in the midst of our own actions. Qualities of compassion, righteousness, faithfulness, and trust will appear only when we give up our own attempts to force the future and instead choose partnership with God, who constantly gives us our future as a gift and bids us receive it rather than grasp it.
In our own modern experience, the tendency is to separate human and divine agency in dealing with the issues of violence and power. There are those of us, on the one hand, who expect God to make moral decisions for us or to take the crucial moral actions. We pray for righteousness, peace, and justice but do nothing to enable it. We treat the Bible as a prescriptive rule book through which we hope God will direct us. On the other hand, there are those of us who imagine that human resources and social action alone are adequate to build the future. We trust only those possibilities that emerge out of empirical data or rational analysis. We do not trust that God is also at work.
Thus the challenge before us is to take to heart the way of peace that David took rather than the way of violence advocated by Abishai. It is to take the way advocated by Jesus who has shown in and through the Cross that the way of non-violence and forgiveness is indeed not only the higher way, but the more practical way. In doing so, we will follow the new Adam who even in the face of seeming defeat and death has the ability to give victory and life.