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Sunday Readings for Feb. 20, 2011 (7A)
By Fr. James Gilhooley
A murderer was gassed. The warden left the death chamber and walked through the jail. A convict shouted, "Who's the murderer now?"
An ABC News Poll says that almost 80% of Americans support capital punishment. 42% of that number say that they seek revenge for deeds done by the criminals. Let us run those numbers by Jesus in this Gospel. Let's see what the computer printout reads. The most ancient law we know of teaches a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. Its author is Hammurabi. He lived 4300 years ago. (William Barclay)
Hammurabi's law of tit for tat was not as gruesome as it sounds. His object was to limit revenge.
Before Hammurabi, if you wronged one tribe member, his buddies would murder your entire clan. We talk about Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.
Hammurabi says, "No way." The only one to be punished is the perpetrator. His punishment is to be no heavier than the wrong he committed. Nor could the victim play the jury. A judge had to decide. It was understood he was not to become a hanging judge.
Hammurabi sounds like a Christian waiting to happen, doesn't he? Sorry if you said yes, for Jesus deep-sixed the law of tit for tat. According to Him, if you are serious about being Christian, revenge is a no-no across the board.
Besides, if you keep knocking out teeth and blinding eyes, you will have a toothless and blind world.
People advise, "Don't get angry. Get even." Uglies shout, "Get angry and get even." The Founder of our Firm says, "To return good for good is human. To return good for evil is divine." He wants us to be divine. He reminds us anger is but one letter short of DANGER. He tells us the best way to get even is to forgive as we have been forgiven. He wants us "always to keep a cool head and a warm heart."
An old woman cursed aloud as she passed the car slowing her down. The young man blew her a kiss. He follows Jesus.
Jesus practiced what He preached. He both forgave people who crucified Him and made excuses for them. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Christ is not finished. He says His people must think not of their rights but of their duties as His followers. They must be concerned not with benefits but responsibilities.
Is it any wonder that attorneys of the time wanted the Christ off the scene? He put them out of business. Have you ever wondered why Jesus had no defense attorney before Governor Pilate? I wager He could not find one to take His case.
While attorneys might not support our Leader, psychiatrists would. We do have a psychic need to forgive and somehow love our enemies. Love possesses healing balm. Should we stay angry, we will become sick. Thus we will wind up in a psychiatrist's office as a paying customer.
The word love appears in Scripture 500 times.
Be careful with your tongue. It is in a wet place and can easily slip. Remember the man who killed his best friend: "We argued and I killed him when we ran out of words." (Unknown)
Don't tremble at that word love. It is not the love you bear your family. That is love from the heart. I speak of love that emerges from the will. Such love reminds us the glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness. (William Blake) Such love is only possible with God's help. Here help is a synonym for grace.
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it. (Martin Luther King, Jr)
Jesus stands before us with Amy Vanderbilt's tome on good manners and says, "Forgiveness is but the first step of the never ending journey for my followers." The Christian message is upbeat. Looking at us, Christ is an optimist. He says we can break through the envelope, run through pain, and leave behind the ordinary human condition. We are told He sees us not as we are but as we can be. In a word, saints.
Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence, says St Basil.
If you forgive and forget but sometimes fail, do not despair. Jesus tells you, "I call you to serve, not to solve."
Anybody wondering how the Master feels on the question of capital punishment? Remember Christ is the world's most celebrated victim of capital punishment.
Those who defeat their anger overcome a formidable foe. Two cannot quarrel when one will not. (Unknown)