Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

 

Reading 1 (1 Kgs 21:1-16):

Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel
next to the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria.
Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden,
since it is close by, next to my house.
I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or,
if you prefer, I will give you its value in money."
Naboth answered him, "The LORD forbid
that I should give you my ancestral heritage."
Ahab went home disturbed and angry at the answer
Naboth the Jezreelite had made to him:
"I will not give you my ancestral heritage."
Lying down on his bed, he turned away from food and would not eat.

His wife Jezebel came to him and said to him,
"Why are you so angry that you will not eat?"
He answered her, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite
and said to him, 'Sell me your vineyard, or,
if you prefer, I will give you a vineyard in exchange.'
But he refused to let me have his vineyard."
His wife Jezebel said to him,
"A fine ruler over Israel you are indeed!
Get up.
Eat and be cheerful.
I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you."

So she wrote letters in Ahab's name and,
having sealed them with his seal,
sent them to the elders and to the nobles
who lived in the same city with Naboth.
This is what she wrote in the letters:
"Proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people.
Next, get two scoundrels to face him
and accuse him of having cursed God and king.
Then take him out and stone him to death."
His fellow citizens' the elders and nobles who dwelt in his city?
did as Jezebel had ordered them in writing,
through the letters she had sent them.
They proclaimed a fast and placed Naboth at the head of the people.
Two scoundrels came in and confronted him with the accusation,
"Naboth has cursed God and king."
And they led him out of the city and stoned him to death.
Then they sent the information to Jezebel
that Naboth had been stoned to death.

When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death,
she said to Ahab,
"Go on, take possession of the vineyard
of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you,
because Naboth is not alive, but dead."
On hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way
down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite,
to take possession of it.

Gospel (Mt 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 say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: A Christian is ready to suffer lost in Christ’s name.

            Resisting enemy by reviling, revenging or getting even isn’t a good resolution for a Christian; but there are many Christians who used these ways to protect justice.

            Today readings help us to understand why God teaches us to behave in a way which is different with the worldly or the Gentile’s way. In the first reading, the author of the First Book of Kings reported an unjust case: King Ahab wanted to have Naboth’s vineyard to expand his property. He agreed with Jezebel’s wicked plan, his wife, to steal it. According to this plan, they shall find two scoundrels to accused Naboth that he blasphemed against God and the king so that Naboth shall be stoned to death, and after that, his vineyard shall belong to the king. In the Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples to treat their enemies in a different way than the ancient people’s way: They should not fight against the wicked, nor revenge, nor prosecute; but generously forgive and give out more than what others expect.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: "I will not give you my ancestral heritage."

1.1/ King Ahab wanted to expand his royal property: He said to Naboth: “Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it is close by, next to my house. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money." Naboth answered him, "The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage."

            Exchanging or selling ancestral land was considered as wiping out one’s ancestral names in the nation, a descendants’ shame (Num 27:4). Naboth used the name of the Lord to remind king Ahab this so he won’t force him to do that. King Ahab knew that the law prohibits to capture the neighbor’s ancestral property (Deut 19:14; Num 27:7-11; Jer 32:6-9); even the king has no right to do this. That is the reason why Ahab negotiated with Naboth to buy; but Naboth didn’t give in. The king came home and was angry with Naboth.

1.2/ Jezebel’s wicked plan to usurp the vineyard: Queen Jezebel is the daughter of a Sidonian king. She worshipped Baal; therefore, she paid no regard for the law as king Ahab. She was a dishonest and greedy. She had a plan to steal Naboth’s vineyard, so she said to Ahab: “A fine ruler over Israel you are indeed! Get up. Eat and be cheerful. I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.”

            King Ahab knew what his wife was going to do, but he didn’t stop her because he wanted to have Naboth’s vineyard. He might think that he isn’t guilty before God and people because he isn’t the one who plans. Jezebel wrote a letter in the name of king Ahab, used his seal to put on the letter and sent it to all elders and the nobles who lived in the same city with Naboth. This is what she wrote in the letters: "Proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. Next, get two scoundrels to face him and accuse him of having cursed God and king. Then take him out and stone him to death."

            In order to have a religious character, Jezebel wanted the elders and the nobles to proclaim a fast to deceive people. A fast is used to express people’s repentance for their sins against God (cf. Joel 1:14; 1 Sam 7:6). The local leaders might know her wicked plan; but weren’t dare to oppose the king’s decree. They knew that if they didn’t do it, they shall pay a hefty price. They found two scoundrels to accuse Naboth of blasphemy against God and the king. Scoundrels aren’t hard to find in any generation; these are people who have no shame in committing sins. They shall do anything for material gains. When king Ahab knew of Naboth’s death, he came down and took possession of his vineyard.

2/ Gospel: “Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

2.1/ Don’t oppose the wicked: Jesus taught his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”

            The law, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” belongs to the Talionis’ law. This is the most ancient law of the world, also found in Hammurabi’s law, about 2250 BC. This law can also be found in the Old Testament at least three times (Exo 21:23-25; Lev 24:19-20, Deut 19:21). Some important things about this law need to be addressed:

            (1) It prevents the escalating revenge: If two parties keep increasing their revenge, death certainly happens not only for individuals but also for families and tribes.

            (2) It is done by the judges, not by individual or familial members.

            (3) It isn’t understood literally: It doesn’t mean that if the victim lost an eye, the one who caused it must also loose an eye; but it shall be calculated in the anount of money which the actor must pay to the victim.

            (4) It isn’t the only principle of the Old Testament law: Besides, there are still many laws which mention love and forgiveness (cf. Lev 19:18; Pro 25:2; Lam 3:30).

            What Jesus wanted to teach his disciples is that they can’t take revenge under any forms. First, this is a very wise teaching because it prevents the lost of life. The Vietnamese adage also advises people that “let material possession take the place of human life.” Secondly, revenge only increases hatred; but forgiveness shall stop hatred and has potential to converse an enemy to one’s friend. Lastly, Jesus’ disciples must believe that God is still controlling of this world. He shall not let the wicked to govern this world and the righteous to greatly suffer; however, trials and sufferings are also needed to test people’s faith and to practice virtues.

            Jesus also prohibited even prosecution when he taught: “If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.” As discussed above, prosecution in civil court requires one to pay lots of money for lawyers, to spent much time and effort, and isn’t guaranteed a fair trial. Next, material gains isn’t the ultimate purpose of life for Christians; if someone need them more than us, let them have. Lastly, the Christians believe that God is the benevolent Father, He shall not let His faithful children to die of hungry or cold.

2.2/ Jesus’ disciple must ready to help others: Jesus continued to teach his disciples, “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” This saying means that Jesus’ disciples don’t stop at the fulfillment of their duty but also to do more than what they should. The Christians must not value material gains more than human dignity, “Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

- We must live in a way which is different with others so that they could recognize our charity and perfection and believe in our Father.

- We shouldn’t hang on to material things too much. Use them as temporal and passing things and don’t deny others when they need it.

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