Today’s readings (Sam 26:2.7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Ps 102, 1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Lk 6:27-38) present a great challenge to our life of faith: to live as Jesus lived. David’s posture prefigures Jesus’ teaching about mercy and forgiveness, love and compassion. It is an invitation to follow a whole new way of life, even if the world dubs it an impossible dream, or just plain folly.

David was an outstanding general in the army of Saul, the first king of Israel. Envious of his popularity, and seeing him as a threat to his kingdom and dynasty, Saul plotted against David but fell into his hands instead. David and his military leader Abishai literally walked into Saul’s encampment in the dead of night and returned with Saul’s spear and jar of water; they could well have killed him, but David chose not to put forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed. David was indeed a man after God’s own heart.

David’s magnanimous gesture stands as a model of neighbourly love. Jesus, a descendant of the same royal house, twenty-eight generations later, weaves a whole new philosophy about love when he says: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ No doubt, it sounds crazy to offer the other cheek; to let others take away our goods with impunity, and to be fools for Christ. But as we learn from David, love of God and neighbour is the only perfect formula.

It goes without saying that the Fall has made it difficult for man to put God and others before self. Our slavery to sin is what Jesus wants us to root out; He has shown the way, by dying for our sins. And we, who are unlikely to die on the cross, could we at least carry it with a spirit of loving sacrifice? It is not easy, especially if we depend on our own strength; but with God’s help, it is not impossible.

But how do we do it? By dying to ourselves in the ups and downs of daily life; by showing mercy and love to others; by making a positive sacrifice for the love of God. In other words, He must increase; we must decrease. Or, to paraphrase Padre Zezinho, the Brazilian songwriter and communicator, we have to love as Jesus loved, dream as Jesus dreamt, think as Jesus did, live as Jesus lived; we must feel what Jesus felt, smile as Jesus smiled, and surely at the end of day we will sleep to our heart’s content.

‘The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.’ We are called to be and do the same. According to St Paul, ‘just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.’ That’s a promise. It is not for us to fret about achieving perfection; it behoves us to only keep trying. Our Father in Heaven, who is rich in mercy and love, knows the vicissitudes of our earthly and spiritual journey. He wants us to make a difference, by loving not only those who love us but to show mercy and love as God does, fully and unconditionally.

If that still comes across as an illusion, or a dream not worth chasing, it is because modern man is so self-absorbed that he thinks of realising himself through self-love, self-interest, self-promotion; it’s a lot about ‘I, me and myself’. What a far cry from the life that God urges us to follow: a life spent in the service of others; a life of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, mercy, compassion, faith, hope, and love. This is the real stuff of life, the real challenge; everything else is illusion.