23rd/24th February

posted 25 Feb 2019, 03:17 by Parish Office

Homily for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (23 & 24/2/19)


On Friday I was listening to a radio episode of Dad’s Army, one I had never come across before.  Captain Mainwaring decides to make Private Frazer a Corporal, and there’s the hope of further promotion yet.  Corporal Frazer then goes about proving his worth by showing excessive loyalty to Captain Mainwaring, and also harshly bossing around his subordinates.  Towards the end of the episode, Frazer is now taking things to extremes and has charged Pike with the offence of desertion in the face of the enemy, a serious charge.  It turns out that what actually happened was that Pike was in a trench when a dog came along.  Pike ran out of the trench because he doesn’t get along very well with dogs, and the dog was a German Shepherd.  Desertion in the face of the enemy.  What is Captain Mainwaring going to do?


Today Christ tells us that we are to love our enemies, do good to them, bless them and pray for those who treat us badly.  “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”  A bit different to Corporal Frazer.  Continuing on from last week’s Gospel, He is asking us to love others in the same way that God loves and forgives us.  If we want to interpret all that He says correctly, then we need to see how Christ lived.  Forgive your enemies?  On the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them;  they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).


What about turning the other cheek?  When he was tried before the Sanhedrin prior to being handed over to Pilate, it says that one of the guards gave Him a slap in the face, saying, “Is that the way to answer the high priest?”  Jesus didn’t literally turn His face in the other direction and invite him to slap the other side, neither did he bite his head off.  Instead He remained composed, but also defended Himself.  He said, “If there is something wrong in what I said, point it out; but if there is no offence in it, why do you strike me?” (See John 18:22-24).  It reminds me of the story of Desmond Tutu, who was walking along a raised wooden platform above the mud of the street.  As he came to a narrower part of the wooden platform, he was met by a white man coming the opposite direction.  The man said to Tutu:  “Get off the sidewalk; I don’t make way for gorillas”.  Tutu stepped aside, gestured broadly and said, “I do!”


So what about, “Treat others as you would like them to treat you”?  Let’s go back to that episode of Dad’s Army.  Whilst Captain Mainwaring is wondering how to deal with the mess of Corporal Frazer, in bursts Captain Square, as if things couldn’t get any worse.  He gets Pike off the hook and then bosses the platoon about so much, with the result that Frazer storms off, only to return with the intent of hitting Captain Square over the head.  Captain Mainwaring now has the perfect excuse to return Frazer back to the ranks.  Frazer had not treated others as you would like them to treat you.


Compare this with David and Saul in today’s first reading.  Saul was going after David’s blood.  When David and Abishai entered Saul’s camp, one of them could have finished off Saul, but instead they spared his life.  We don’t hear it in the extract of today’s first reading, but it continues with Saul being reconciled to David because of David sparing his life.  Unlike Frazer, David treated others as he wished to be treated.  In doing so, he regained his friendship with Saul and saved his life.


The thing that makes Christ’s teaching so radical is that it’s not a matter of “love those who love you, and hate those who hate you”.  Rather we are called to love our enemies, and that’s how we win them over, not with tit for tat.  To love enemies, requires going that extra mile.  But it’s also something we can apply to other settings to.  To arguments that occur in the family, the workplace or among friends and neighbours.  Regardless of who is in the right and who is in the wrong, sometimes, showing a bit of undeserved kindness can save things from going sour.


“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly … because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.”  We can take this, put it back in the bottle and leave it on the shelf.  Or we can use it to  transform society.