11th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: 1 K 21:1–16
Naboth, a man from Jezreel, owned a vineyard just beside the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria. Ahab asked Naboth, “Give me your vineyard which is near my house that I may use it for a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange. Or, if you prefer, I will pay you its price.”
But Naboth said to Ahab, “Yahweh forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”
So Ahab went home angry and sad because of what Naboth had told him, that he would not give him the inheritance of his fathers. So he lay down on his bed with his face turned toward the wall and refused to eat.
His wife Jezebel came to him and said, “Why are you so angry that you refuse to eat?” He answered, “I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and asked him to sell me his vineyard or to exchange it for another better one but he answered: I will not give you my vineyard.”
His wife Jezebel said to him, “Are you not king of Israel? Get up and eat and be joyful, for I will give you the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel.”
So Jezebel wrote letters using Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and important persons living near Naboth. This is what she wrote in the letters, “Declare a fast and put Naboth on trial. Get two worthless fellows to accuse him in this way: ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”
The people, the elders and the important persons who lived in his city did as Jezebel had instructed them in the letters she sent to them. They declared a fast and put Naboth on trial. The two worthless fellows came in and sat facing him, accusing Naboth before the people, “Naboth cursed God and the king!” So the people took him outside the city and stoned him to death. They then sent word to Jezebel that Naboth had been stoned and was dead.
As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, she told Ahab, “Now take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, the man of Jezreel who refused to sell it to you, for Naboth is now dead.” As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he went down to the vineyard of Naboth and took possession of it.
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-42
Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give when asked and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.”
Lex Talionis is the oldest law in the world, and Jesus quotes it in today’s gospel. On television news programs every evening you can see savagery that is much worse than anything the animals are capable of. A great improvement on that is the Lex Talionis: it like the laws of mechanics —force and counterforce. But the morality that Jesus teaches is without equal; it is the most creative of all. It is able to break the chain of violence, turn enemies into friends, make a new thing visible in the world: forgiveness, and it is able to give a dignity to human beings that is like the very dignity of God.
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