Monday – A Pouting King and an Evil Queen
King Ahab was in a royal snit. He wanted Naboth's vineyard for a vegetable garden, but Naboth wouldn't give it to him. He had simply refused to release his ancestral land even though Ahab had offered him a better vineyard or even money. But that stubborn Naboth wouldn't agree. Didn't being king count for anything at all, Ahab pouted as he lay down on his bed, turned his face to the wall, and refused to eat.
It didn't take long for Ahab's wife, Jezebel, to get fed up with her husband's childish antics. She decided to take matters into her own hands. She made a few plans, wrote a few letters, nonchalantly had Naboth executed, and told her husband to get up and go take possession of his new vineyard. Jezebel, the evil queen par excellence, had solved her pouting king's problem, or so she thought.
Tuesday – Love Your Enemies
“But I say to you, love your enemies.” Jesus is very clear. By His command, on His authority, we must love our enemies.
We probably agree with Jesus that this is the ideal, but we might not quite be able to grasp what loving our enemies looks like in practice.
First off, let's talk about what loving our enemies doesn't look like. It doesn't have to be about emotional affection. We don't have to like people who hurt us. We don't have to spend time with them. We don't have to take their abuse. We don't have to feel any closeness to them whatsoever. We don't have to “fall in love” with them.
The kind of love that Jesus is talking about here is a choice of the will. It is a decision to wish our enemies the very best. It's a decision to let go of our grudges and desires for revenge (which really tie us down far more than they harm our enemies). This kind of love desires that our enemies change for the better, that they come to know Jesus, that they become stronger, more caring people, that they prosper with all the best kinds of success. And what's more, this kind of love actually prays that God will shower down all of these graces and more upon our enemies.
Loving our enemies in this way frees us from the pain caused by those who have hurt us, helps us imitate our Lord Who sends blessings down upon everyone (whether they are His friends or His enemies), and sets our hearts on the path to true forgiveness and peace.
Wednesday – Motives
In today's Gospel, Jesus encourages us to examine the motives behind our religious activities.
Are we like the hypocrites who blow trumpets and show off when they give alms because they hope that people will see and approve of them? We shouldn't be. Those people have already earned the reward of human admiration. They will not receive any divine recompense.
Are we like the hypocrites who stand on the street corner or even in church praying in the hopes that people will notice how holy we are and what a direct line we have to God? We shouldn't be. Those people aren't really praying to God. They're praying to themselves.
Are we like the hypocrites who look gloomy and messy when they fast so that people will see what a hardship they are undergoing and feel sorry for them? We shouldn't be. Those people are actually indulging themselves rather than fasting, and they will receive none of the blessings that fasts would otherwise bring.
What must we do then? We should give alms in secret so that our Father in Heaven sees us. We should pray in the depths of our hearts even when we pray in public so that we have a real conversation with God. We should fast in order to let go of ourselves and our desires and turn our attention to God. Then, Jesus says, “your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”