Never Blamed the Other Guy
(With apologies for my attempts at humor, I’m a bit punchy after the Christmas
A big fight broke out in a school yard between two nine year old boys,
third graders. Teachers quickly broke up the fight.
“Who started this?” one teacher asked.
“He did,” said one of the boys, sobbing. “It all started when he hit me back.”
It’s always the other guy’s fault.
There hasn’t been a war started in the last one hundred years that
hasn’t been the other guy’s fault. Hitler
was a master at justifying his invasions of Alsace Lorraine, Czechoslovakia,
Poland, etc. Arabs have blamed
Israelis and Israelis have blamed Arabs for every policy of aggression each side
has adopted. Catholics and
Protestants have done the same thing in Northern Ireland, and so forth. Some
would like to think that the United States has never been an unjustified
aggressor, but the Mexican War, and the Spanish American War are just two sad
examples of how our country manipulated facts to achieve its political purposes.
God does not judge our actions in relationship to whether it is someone
else’s fault. He is more
concerned that we do what is correct regardless of whatever grudge we could
have. A good example of this is in
the first reading for today. This
is part of the history of David and
Saul. The First Book of Samuel
tells the story. The prophet Samuel
had anointed the young boy David claiming him for God.
After this, as you know, David
slew Goliath and became famous. Soon
after posing for Michelangelo, David was made a commander in King Saul’s army.
David was so successful that Saul eventually became jealous of him. On one
triumphant return to Jerusalem, the women cried out, “Saul has slain his
thousands and David has slain his tens of thousands.”
Not a politically advisable thing for the girls to be shouting.
Saul decided that David had to go. He was quite shrewd.
He saw how his daughter Michal was looking at young David. She must have
seen the statue. Anyway, he knew
David couldn’t afford to offer the traditional gift to a King for marriage to
a princess. So he figured he could
get rid of David by giving him an impossible task to perform.
Saul offered his daughter Michal to David in marriage, but first David
had to kill a hundred Philistines. (Actually,
he was told to present Saul with the Hebrew equivalent of scalps, but this is
the PG version of the story so we won’t go into
that.) Anyway, David showed up with proof that he had killed the hundred
Philistines, and was allowed to marry Michal.
King Saul was even angrier. This
upstart was now his son-in-law. One
day at court, Saul appeared to be relaxing.
David was present playing music. It
must have been rap or something because it pushed Saul over the edge.
He grabbed a spear and chucked it at David.
David ducked just in time and headed for the hills.
Saul declared that David was a rebel and went out with his army out to
catch him. This is when we come
upon today’s first reading. David
and Abishai learned where Saul’s army was camped for the night.
They snuck into the camp and into the King’s tent.
Instead of killing Saul and getting rid of his problem, David took proof
that he had been there, Saul’s spear and water jug.
He then called out to Saul and his army from a nearby hill.
He basically said, “I have plenty of reason to kill you, but it would
have been the wrong thing for me to do since you have been chosen by God to be
The point of the reading is that an action we take cannot be justified by
saying, “It’s the other guy’s fault.”
We have to consider the total impact of the action as well as account for
our uncanny ability to rationalize our way into justifying anything that we do.
First we have to be honest, here. Just
like the kid in the fight, we can always find ways to deflect the blame on
others. Every abuser claims that
his spouse drove him to it. Every
child beater claims that the child just wouldn’t behave properly.
Every person holding a grudge is convinced that they had no part in the
actions that led to the hostility. We
are adept at justifying our behavior, no matter how absurd that behavior might
Today’s Gospel speaks about the impact of our actions of love or hate.
The Lord asks us to do that which seems intolerable.
He wants us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless
those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes
you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes
your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
What can possibly justify such radical charity, radical love, that
refuses to respond to injury? Jesus
gives the justification: Then
your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he
himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. The motive for the
Lord’s decree is stated clearly: We are to be merciful, just as our Father is
The Christian is called to bring an experience of God to the world.
The Christian is called to proclaim salvation.
The Christian is called to proclaim Jesus Christ.
But how can we proclaim God if we behave in a manner that is a total
antithesis to God? God is Love. How can we proclaim God if we hate. The mission the Lord has sent us on is far more important
than the question of who started the fight.
By refusing to respond to injury, we alert the world to a new attitude of
life. From the cross, Jesus forgave
all who participated in his torture and death.
From his cell, St. Thomas More, forgave King Henry VIII for destroying
his reputation and his life. From
our hearts, we have to forgive anyone who has hurt us. The vicious cycle of hatred can only be stopped by people who
are determined to love.
All of us have our battle stories. All
of us have been done dirty by others. Perhaps,
some of us have let bad situations become worse by taking a shot back against
those unjust aggressors in our lives. Of
course, nothing was resolved. More
than that, the world suffered because we did not take advantage of the
opportunity to bring God’s love and mercy to the world.
Some of us are at the end of
the road of life. How many of us
really expect to be alive in twenty years, thirty years, forty years? How important is that grudge we hold? The only thing we can take with us when we die is our
capacity to love. Do we really want
to diminish or destroy our capacity to love to get back at that other person?
It is a great gift the Lord gives us when he points out that the way to happiness is by rejecting hatred. The only one ever destroyed by hatred is the person who does the hating. Those who find peace in their lives are those who are so tied to God (and that’s what the word religion means) being tied to God, the only ones who find peace in their lives are those who are so tied to God that others experience God’s presence through them. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful is our guide to living the life of Christ in this world and uniting our lives to his in the next.