June 18, 2012 - Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 21:1-16
Psalm 5:2-3, 4-7
Matthew 5:38-42

In the first reading today, Jezebel tells the town officials to find two scoundrels, but the reading is full, beginning to end with scoundrels. Ahab is bad because he throws a temper tantrum when he does not get to have the vegetable garden that he wants next to his house, and he is bad because he stands by while others do evil in his name. The town officials are wicked because they betray Naboth just because a letter tells them to. Of course, the two scoundrels are wicked for acting as false witnesses. Then there is a Jezebel, a woman so wicked that 3000 years later, her name still means a wicked woman.

We can agree that the only person of merit in the reading is Naboth who never did anything to deserve the way he was treated. However, while Naboth did not commit a sin per se, we could still say that he did something wrong. Clearly, in retrospect, he should have taken the deal when Ahab offered it to him. It was not just. Naboth had good reasons for refusing, but if he had taken the deal he might have lived for a while to come. No one likes to give wicked people what they want, but sometimes it is the most reasonable course of action. Your wallet or your car or anything you own is not worth your life.

In the Gospel, Jesus is taking this concept further yet. He does not merely suggest that we should give the wicked what they want so that they will leave us alone, but that we should give them more than they want. Give them two miles instead of one, and give them your cloak in addition to the tunic they wanted. Let them hit you twice if they want to hit you once.

What he is showing is a disregard not merely for material possessions, but for those immaterial possessions we so greatly value: our pride, our comfort, even our freedom. In this unfair world, sometimes we are better off allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of rather than stand up for ourselves and suffer the consequences. This is not easy, but it is just the reality. By not holding tightly onto our rights, we are able to be above the battle of this world and free to do what really matters.