1 Kings 21:17-29
After the death of Naboth, the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Up! Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, in Samaria. You will find him in Naboth’s vineyard; he has gone down to take possession of it. You are to say this to him, “the Lord says this: You have committed murder; now you usurp as well. For this – and the Lord says this – in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick your blood too.”’ Ahab said to Elijah, ‘So you have found me out, O my enemy!’ Elijah answered, ‘I have found you out. For your double dealing, and since you have done what is displeasing to the Lord, I will now bring disaster down on you; I will sweep away your descendants, and wipe out every male belonging to the family of Ahab, fettered or free in Israel. I will treat your House as I treated the House of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah, for provoking my anger and leading Israel into sin. (Against Jezebel the Lord spoke these words: The dogs will eat Jezebel in the Field of Jezreel.) Those of Ahab’s family who die in the city, the dogs will eat; and those who die in the open country, the birds of the air will eat.’
And indeed there never was anyone like Ahab for double dealing and for doing what is displeasing to the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the most abominable way, adhering to idols, just as the Amorites used to do whom the Lord had dispossessed for the sons of Israel.
When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments and put sackcloth next his skin and fasted; he slept in the sackcloth; he walked with slow steps. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; I will bring the disaster down on his House in the days of his son.’
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
There was a time when I was young, where I always wondered why the protagonists on TV dramas were always driven by hatred against their enemies to motivate them to accomplish their desired aim. Whilst one can put it down to good TV dramatics, I believe that hate as a motivation does allow a person to have a purpose of living. It is in the readings of today which remind us that it is love, and not hate, which will ultimately be liberation for the person.
Jesus reminds us that we need to love our enemies and do good to those who have persecuted us. Such an approach may seem counter-intuitive but the whole being and nature of Jesus is one of love. This love is one which is ever-forgiving and welcoming of the individual. We see a glimpse of this in the first reading where God was angry with Ahab for behaving in an unacceptable way through acts of murder and being a poor leader to the people of Israel. Yet God still forgave him when he repented despite his failings. In our eyes, he should have been punished severely for the sins he had committed, yet God forgives Ahab because he has shown himself to be repentant.
Love forgives the greatest fault of an individual but it is up to us to decide if we want to extend this love to the people around us. Sometimes, it is hard to do so especially if this hurt has accumulated over a period of time but we must realise that hate will consume us and make us feel angry unnecessarily. Only love can free us from the pain in our lives and the grief which we have been holding onto for the longest time.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask for the grace to forgive our enemies.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all confessors for the gift of helping each of us to see God’s love in action.