Monday, February 8, 2010

I Have Built You A Princely House, One That Will Last Forever.

Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13
The elders of Israel and all the leaders of the tribes,
the princes in the ancestral houses of the children of Israel,
came to King Solomon in Jerusalem,
to bring up the ark of the LORD’s covenant
from the City of David, which is Zion.
All the people of Israel assembled before King Solomon
during the festival in the month of Ethanim (the seventh month).
When all the elders of Israel had arrived,
the priests took up the ark;
they carried the ark of the LORD
and the meeting tent with all the sacred vessels
that were in the tent.
(The priests and Levites carried them.)
King Solomon and the entire community of Israel
present for the occasion
sacrificed before the ark sheep and oxen
too many to number or count.
The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD
to its place beneath the wings of the cherubim in the sanctuary,
the holy of holies of the temple.
The cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the ark,
sheltering the ark and its poles from above.
There was nothing in the ark but the two stone tablets
which Moses had put there at Horeb,
when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel
at their departure from the land of Egypt.

When the priests left the holy place,
the cloud filled the temple of the LORD
so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud,
since the LORD’s glory had filled the temple of the LORD.
Then Solomon said, “The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud;
I have truly built you a princely house,
a dwelling where you may abide forever.”

As his life progressed, Solomon moved steadily downhill. The sacred writer implies that women were the cause of his downfall, and especially foreign women. Apart from the daughter of Egypt’s Pharaoh, he took many foreign women as his wives. Among these were many from ethnic groups with which the Israelites were forbidden to marry. The reason for this prohibition was the danger that one would be tempted to worship their gods, as is the case here.

Solomon fell in love with many such women and, towards the end of his life, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (presumably something of a literary exaggeration). The problem was not so much the number of women in his life – for even David had a number of wives. But these women turned him away from Yahweh as his God. Unlike his father, David, “his heart was no longer entirely with the Lord”.

Among the gods Solomon began to worship under the influence of his wives were Astarte (Asthtoreth), the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom (Molech), the idol of the Ammonites. Worship of Molech not only severely jeopardised the recognition of the absolute kingship of the Lord over his people but also involved (on rare occasions) the practice of child sacrifice.

To appease his wives, Solomon built shrines to Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, and to Molech on a hill facing Jerusalem. And he did the same for many of his wives, who openly worshipped their own gods.

Twice in the past God had appeared to Solomon: the first time when he asked Solomon what special gift he wanted and Solomon, setting set aside wealth and military power, had asked for wisdom. In the second vision, just after Solomon had completed the Temple, Yahweh had promised many blessings on Solomon. But now, God is angry with him, especially because of his repeated idolatry and his violation of the covenant. Solomon had broken the most basic demands of the covenant and thereby severely undermined the entire covenant relationship between God and his people.

In punishment, his kingdom would be given over to not to a son but to one of his servants. However, for the sake of David, Solomon would remain king until his death. Also, for David’s sake, Solomon’s son would be left king of just one tribe. In this way, the promise of an everlasting dynasty for David’s line would be, at least partially, observed.

As Jerusalem contained the temple built by David’s son, the destiny of Jerusalem and the Davidic dynasty were closely linked. The temple represented God’s royal palace, where his earthly throne (the Ark) was situated and where he had pledged to be present as Israel’s Great King.

Solomon’s foreign marriages were primarily contracted for political ends and the pagan shrines were intended for his wives and for traders. Such contacts, however, jeopardised the purity of the religion of Yahweh, and the author interprets the situation in the spirit and language of Deuteronomy. God punishes Solomon’s impiety by raising up enemies abroad (Hadad the Edomite) and at home, (Jeroboam will take over 10 tribes as king, leaving only Judah to Solomon’s son).

In the end, Solomon’s great wisdom could not prevent him being ruled by his heart and his political and economic interests.

How often have we, too, been ruled by our emotions and other considerations and been led into behavior which we know is wrong? It is so easy for us to rationalize, which means creating false reasons to justify what we do. And yet, the only way to go for our own long-term good is the way of truth, integrity and genuine love. Again we pray for that wisdom which gives us an insight into where truth and goodness are to be found.

The road to that wisdom, of course, is the Way of Jesus.

+++ +++ +++ +++
Psalm 132

Lord, go up to the place of your rest!
Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
Let us enter into his dwelling,
let us worship at his footstool.
Lord, go up to the place of your rest!Advance, O LORD, to your resting place,
you and the ark of your majesty.
May your priests be clothed with justice;
let your faithful ones shout merrily for joy.
For the sake of David your servant,
reject not the plea of your anointed.
Lord, go up to the place of your rest!
+++ +++

Mark 6:53-56
After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land
at Gennesaret and tied up there.
As they were leaving the boat,
people immediately recognized him.
They scurried about the surrounding country
and began to bring in the sick on mats
to wherever they heard he was.
Whatever villages or towns
or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch
only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.

Last Saturday we saw Jesus and the Twelve landing at a remote place by the lakeshore to spend a day of quietness and reflection. But, as soon as they disembarked, they were met by a huge number of people for whom Jesus, as their Shepherd, was filled with the deepest compassion. After teaching them at length, he arranged with his disciples for the 5,000 people there to be fed. After this, the disciples were sent off in their boat to Bethsaida. On the way, they ran into a huge storm. In the middle of it Jesus appeared walking on the water. When he got into the boat and commanded the wind and the waves there was total calm. In our weekday readings from Mark, these two scenes are passed over at this point.

Today we have a passage summarizing what Jesus was doing for the people. It indicates the tremendous hunger of the people to be cured and made whole by Jesus. The people recognize him immediately and go everywhere bringing along those in need of healing. Jesus, in turn, was visiting towns and villages. The sick, strong in their faith, only asked to be allowed to touch the edges of his outer garment and everyone who touched him was cured.

Let us pray that our influence on others at home, at work and elsewhere may have a truly healing effect.


Sarah in the tent said...

'They laid the sick in the marketplaces.'

I think it is interesting that the words 'mercy' and 'market' have a common Latin root (merces: salary, pay, revenue; from which we also get 'mercenary' and 'merchant'). These marketplaces have become places of mercy.

Economics are a big driving force of history - some would say the biggest - and the market can be harsh on the less fit. A merciful market is the ideal.

I hope that Americans currently debating healthcare reform can get closer to that ideal.

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Sarah, I must begin with a correction: the Latin noun merces is the root word for market, merchant and mercenary; but the Latin root of mercy is misericordia, which literally means "heartsickness", that is compassion (another noun rooted in Latin "to share another's suffering").

Still, your comment is on the mark: A society which honors the notion that all of God's children are created equal must strive to have a merciful marketplace.