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Reflecting on the Gospel (7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

A Gospel Reflection for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C (Luke 6:27-38)


By Veronica Lawson RSM (Ballarat East)


On February 4 this year (2007), the ABC re-broadcast a program documenting the moving story of Marsha Gladstone, a Jewish woman from Scotland. When a bus in Tel Aviv was shattered in a suicide bombing, Marsha’s 19 year-old son Yoni Jesner was critically injured. Yoni never regained consciousness, and before he died, the family agreed to make some of his organs available for transplant. The decision to donate helped them to find some meaning in this senseless tragedy.


The subsequent revelation that one of Yoni’s kidneys had saved the life of Yasmin Rumeilah, a seven-year-old Palestinian girl, came as quite a shock to the family. It had simply never occurred to this Jewish family that a child of the “˜enemy’ would become the beneficiary of Yoni’s gift.


A year after Yoni’s death and at considerable personal cost, Marsha visited Yasmin and her family in their home in the West Bank. The Jewish mother who had lost her son embraced the Palestinian mother whose child lives with gratitude in her heart for the young Jewish man who gave her another chance at life and whom she now refers to as her “˜brother’. There was an extraordinary moment of womb-compassion in the embrace of these two women, one Jewish and the other Muslim. The hatred and misunderstanding of the generations seemed to dissolve in their encounter.


Today’s gospel reminds us that God-like compassion is the stance required of Christian disciples in the face of opposition and hatred. Luke’s earliest hearers and readers were well acquainted with the ancient traditions that informed their faith, even if many were not themselves Jewish.


They had been introduced to a God of steadfast love (ḥesed) and womb-compassion (raḥamîm), a God concerned about justice in the legal system (mishpat) and right relationship (sedeqah) between people and nations, a God ever ready to forgive those who turn away from injustice and wrongdoing. The songs and prayers of their Jewish heritage reminded them constantly of the compassionate ways of God in their history and in their personal lives. When the Lukan Jesus tells these people to be compassionate as God is compassionate, they know what he means. They also know the cost of compassion in situations where retaliation is the more spontaneous instinct.


Compassion, forgiveness, and love of enemies are rare commodities, especially in international politics and in the resolution of global conflict. Sadly, the major trouble spots witness to constant retaliation and face-saving measures that serve to harden positions and exacerbate division. And yet, there is no other way to break the cycles of violence that perpetuate death and destruction – only the way of womb-compassion exemplified by Marsha Gladstone and Yasmin’s mother.


In practice, God-like compassion requires that we let go of past hurts, examine our tenaciously held opinions, and try to see the world from the perspective of those we tend to mistrust.