Readings: 1 Kings 21:17-29, Ps. 51:3-6,11,16, Matthew 5:43-48

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

Jezebel told Ahab, “The man who refused to sell his land to you is dead. Rise, take possession of the vineyard.” Without even asking how Naboth died, Ahab ran straight to the vineyard. Ahab must have thought he could get it for free. He probably prepared his defence while heading to the vineyard: “I didn’t have a hand in the death of Naboth, I didn’t even know what my wife was planning, she stole my signature (used my seal). I only took possession of the land because no one could look after it.” It is possible to deceive people but impossible to deceive God. This brings us to today’s lessons:

- Death is not the end of our lives. The only reason Naboth refused to sell the land was because of the respect he had for his ancestors. Naboth knew their spirits lived on even though they were physically gone. Having been created in the image and likeness of God, there is something of God in us that makes us immortal. When we die, and our bodies are buried, we become spirits. While responding to the Sadducee's question about the resurrection, Jesus said that after death, we become like the Angels, and this is why we cannot marry. (cf. Mark 12:25). This means that killing a person does not end the person’s existence. Naboth was unjustly killed, but his soul cried out for vengeance. As soon as Ahab stepped foot on that land, God gave Elijah the divine signal to be the prophet.

- If someone has to cry, suffer or die before you can get what you want, you will never enjoy it. It is like receiving congratulations after cheating in an exam; you know the results are not yours, that you are a fraud. There was no way Ahab would enjoy the land peacefully since Naboth’s soul was not resting in peace. If your idea of success is seeing others perish, if you have to pull someone down to rise, if you partake in dirty politics, you are not different from Ahab and Jezebel. We once had a president in this country who said: “My ambition is not worth another person’s life.” We didn’t listen to him or appreciate the depth of this sermon, but today, we are learning our lessons the hard way.

- Do not mistake Jesus’ instruction to love our enemies as an approval of their evil deeds. God does not condone evil. The reward of sin is death. (cf. Romans 6:23). For every action, there has to be an equal and opposite reaction. Elijah told Ahab: “Thus says the Lord: ‘In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your blood.’” (1 Kings 21:19). Flee from sin. Do not be carried away by your emotions and rush to do evil. Think carefully of the consequences of your actions. Also, think of their ripple effects on your children. “I will bring evil upon you; I will utterly sweep you away and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. (1 Kings 21:21). When we compare the weight of what we stand to lose from sin with what we hope to gain, the wise choice is to refrain from sin. Ahab, like David, had much land in his name, but because he couldn’t remove his eyes from what belonged to another person, he lost everything.

- God is merciful, but we must first acknowledge our faults and beg for His forgiveness to access His mercy. If Ahab tried to justify his actions or cast blame like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he would have died that day. There is no short supply of mercy in God’s reservoir; the problem is our refusal to ask for it – the problem is our pride. Like David, who asked for mercy and received a second chance, Ahab was spared of curses because he begged for mercy. Today, our Psalmist sings: “Have mercy, O Lord, for we have sinned.” When we are sincerely sorry for our sins, we would realise that we are not better than our so-called enemies. If we were in their shoes, we would have done worse.

- Christian perfection is the ability to forgive others sincerely. As we noted above, it is not in our place to take revenge on others; trust God to deal with those who do evil. Forgiveness is hard, yet it is the only thing that makes us different from the Gentiles. Practising sincere forgiveness is the only thing that makes us like Christ. To have a forgiving heart is to have a heart that takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner. (cf. Ezekiel 18:23). Don’t wish evil for anyone, and if you ever get the chance to retaliate for a wrong done to you, use it as an opportunity to practice forgiveness.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, give me a heart that mirrors your sacred heart, a heart that is ever ready to forgive, love, and let go of hurts. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. May God’s abundant blessings be upon us all. (Tuesday of week 11 in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: 1 Kings 21:17-29, Ps. 51:3-6, 11-16, Matthew 5:43-48).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu