Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Trust In God. I Shall Not Fear.

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I                 1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7
When David and Saul approached
(on David’s return after slaying the Philistine),
women came out from each of the cities of Israel to meet King Saul,
singing and dancing, with tambourines, joyful songs, and sistrums.
The women played and sang:
“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”

Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought:
“They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me.
All that remains for him is the kingship.”
And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.

Saul discussed his intention of killing David
with his son Jonathan and with all his servants.
But Saul’s son Jonathan, who was very fond of David, told him:
“My father Saul is trying to kill you.
Therefore, please be on your guard tomorrow morning;
get out of sight and remain in hiding.
I, however, will go out and stand beside my father
in the countryside where you are, and will speak to him about you.
If I learn anything, I will let you know.”

Jonathan then spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him:
“Let not your majesty sin against his servant David,
for he has committed no offense against you,
but has helped you very much by his deeds.
When he took his life in his hands and slew the Philistine,
and the LORD brought about a great victory
for all Israel through him,
you were glad to see it.
Why, then, should you become guilty of shedding innocent blood
by killing David without cause?”
Saul heeded Jonathan’s plea and swore,
“As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.”
So Jonathan summoned David and repeated the whole conversation to him.
Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and David served him as before.

Saul was deeply impressed by David’s great exploit in killing Goliath and took him into his palace. And a deep friendship developed between David and Jonathan, Saul’s son. We are told a little earlier that “Jonathan had become as fond of David as if his life depended on him; he loved him as he loved himself” (18:1). Jonathan, as a sign of his affection, gave David his own mantle, his military dress, his sword, his bow and his belt. David was now transformed from a shepherd into a soldier.

Our reading today opens by saying that, as David and Saul returned from David’s famous victory over Goliath, the women came out from all the cities, singing and dancing. They played and sang:
Saul has killed his thousands and David his tens of thousands.

In accordance with the normal convention of Hebrew poetry, this was the women’s way of saying “Both Saul and David have slain thousands” (10,000 was normally used as the parallel of 1,000 - cf. Ps 91:7). It is a measure of Saul’s insecurity and jealousy that he heard their words literally and took offence. His resentment would also be triggered simply by having David’s name put alongside his own. From then on a seething jealousy and resentment against David grew in his heart.

Things reached a stage where Saul actually intended to kill David. He even tried to contrive that David would be killed in battle by the Philistines. If this happened, Saul’s evil intention would not be known for he was aware of David’s popularity with the people. (Ironically, David himself will do exactly the same thing against the husband of a woman with whom he had an adulterous affair. Except that, in David’s case, the husband was killed and David’s sin was exposed, cf. First Reading II for Friday of the 3rd Week.)

In another ruse Saul offered his own daughter as a bride to David. He hoped that, as Saul’s son-in-law, he would become a target for the Philistines. Unfortunately, this did not work, even though the daughter, Michal, who loved David, did become his wife.

In today’s reading we see Saul trying now to get his son Jonathan to bring about David’s death. He is abandoning the indirect attempts he so far been contriving. He now adopts a more direct approach which will ultimately lead to David’s leaving the court and Saul’s service. However, Jonathan told David about his father’s intentions and later spoke to Saul on David’s behalf. After all, David had done so much to protect Saul and the people by his exploits. Why kill innocent blood?

Considering that David could have been seen as a threat to Jonathan’s own expectations of succeeding his father, his behavior is both an indication of Jonathan’s integrity and his love and respect for David. Saul was won over and swore not to kill David, who was reinstated fully. However, Saul had made oaths in the past and not kept them. He won’t keep this one for very long either.

Jealousy can be a terrible thing. It is closely linked with one’s own insecurity and difficulty in accepting what one is. It is very difficult to see others surpassing the skills of which we were proud. It is difficult to see people turning their attention away from us to others. It is difficult for us to have the spirit of John the Baptist, “He must increase; I must decrease.” The cure for jealousy is for us to accept fully our strengths and our weaknesses and not to measure our success as persons by what we can do or by what people think of us.

All that matters is that God be given glory and that the work of the Kingdom be done. If some are doing it better than us, we should be grateful. If some are not doing it better than us but are getting all the credit, does it really matter?

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Responsorial            Psalm 56
In God I trust; I shall not fear.
Have mercy on me, O God, for men trample upon me;
all the day they press their attack against me.
My adversaries trample upon me all the day;
yes, many fight against me.
In God I trust; I shall not fear.
My wanderings you have counted;
my tears are stored in your flask;
are they not recorded in your book?
Then do my enemies turn back,
when I call upon you.
In God I trust; I shall not fear.
Now I know that God is with me.
In God, in whose promise I glory,
in God I trust without fear;
what can flesh do against me?
In God I trust; I shall not fear.
I am bound, O God, by vows to you;
your thank offerings I will fulfill.
For you have rescued me from death,
my feet, too, from stumbling;
that I may walk before God in the light of the living.
In God I trust; I shall not fear.

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Gospel                   Mark 3:7-12
Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.
A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.
Hearing what he was doing,
a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem,
from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan,
and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd,
so that they would not crush him.

He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases
were pressing upon him to touch him.
And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him
and shout, “You are the Son of God.”
He warned them sternly not to make him known.

This is a summary text indicating the tremendous drawing power of Jesus with the ordinary people. It is in stark contrast with the preceding passages of conflict with the religious leaders who were out to destroy him. People were coming not only from Galilee, where Jesus was living and working, but from Jerusalem and Judea in the south, from across the river Jordan and even from Gentile regions like Tyre and Sidon. They came because of all they had heard about what he was doing.

So great were the crowds that Jesus had to ask his disciples to get a boat so that he would not be crushed. Huge numbers of people, who had heard of his healing powers, wanted to touch him. They felt that was enough to be healed. Some, possessed by evil spirits, fell down before him and called out, “You are the Son of God!” Jesus warned them to keep silent. As mentioned before, this call was not a confession of faith but an attempt to turn aside the threatening power of Jesus by using the exact name of the opposing "spirit".

Jesus knew that the people were not ready for this revelation of his identity. Their attitudes were still largely superficial. They were coming for their own immediate needs and not as true followers. They came to get, not to give or share.

Nevertheless, Jesus would not turn them away. He knew that they had great needs which only he could satisfy. He was full of compassion for them and anxious to bring healing into their lives.

Living Space
The Irish Jesuits

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