Thursday, February 4, 2010

In Your Hand Are Power And Might;You Give Strength To All

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
A reading from the first Book of Kings 2:1-4, 10-12

When the time of David’s death drew near,
he gave these instructions to his son Solomon:
“I am going the way of all flesh.
Take courage and be a man.
Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following his ways
and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees
as they are written in the law of Moses,
that you may succeed in whatever you do,
wherever you turn, and the Lord may fulfill
the promise he made on my behalf when he said,
‘If your sons so conduct themselves
that they remain faithful to me with their whole heart
and with their whole soul,
you shall always have someone of your line
on the throne of Israel.’”

David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David.
The length of David’s reign over Israel was forty years:
he reigned seven years in Hebron
and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.

Solomon was seated on the throne of his father David,
with his sovereignty firmly established.
Today we begin today the First Book of Kings. We carry on the narrative from 2 Samuel as David comes to the end of his life and hands over the kingship to his son Solomon, the second son that he had by Bathsheba (after she had become his wife).

Today’s reading contains part of David’s final testament before his death. Moses, Joshua and Samuel, as representatives of God’s rule over his people, had all given final instructions and admonitions before they died. David is now going “the way of all flesh” and exhorts his son to be courageous and act like a real man.

While the section in our reading consists of positive instructions to his son and successor, Solomon, he is also instructed to execute vengeance on David’s personal enemies, including Joab, one of his chief generals who had betrayed him, and Shimei, a man who had cursed David and whom David had originally told should not be touched. Such instructions for blood-revenge and enduring curses were common for the period.

On the positive side, Solomon is told to observe what the Lord his God requires. He is to walk in the Lord’s ways, a characteristic expression from the law of Moses for acting in obedience to the obligations of the covenant. These obligations are spelt out: to observe God’s decrees and commands, his laws and requirements. And finally, there is a prayer for success in all his undertakings.

David then prays that the Lord may fulfil his promise he made for the continuity of his dynastic line. “You will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.” Here he alludes to the covenanted promise given to him by God through Nathan the prophet. Although the covenant promise to David was unconditional, individual participation in its blessing on the part of David’s royal descendants depended on their total obedience (“with all your heart and soul”) to the obligations of the Mosaic covenant.

However, both Solomon and his descendants fell short of their covenant obligations. This led to the division of the kingdom and eventually to the exile of both the northern and southern kingdoms to Babylon. It was only in the coming of Christ that the fallen tent of David would be restored and the promise of David’s eternal dynasty ultimately fulfilled.

When the nation and its king turned away from the requirements of the covenant, they experienced the covenant curses rather than blessings; but in all this God remained faithful to his covenant promises to Abraham and to David. In spite of all their failings, the promise of the covenant found its realisation in Jesus, King and Messiah.

After 40 years on the throne David died in Jerusalem, the "City of David". He had been king in Hebron for seven years and in Jerusalem for 33. The dates are about 1010 to 970 BC.

Solomon, his son by Bathsheba and a young man full of promise, had already taken over the kingship.

In the Old Testament David stands out as a giant. He was a man of glaring faults. He was also a man of deep religious conviction, a man of great integrity. When he failed, and he failed badly by any standards, he was the first to acknowledge his faults and express repentance for his sin. In consequence, he experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness.

We can learn from his example. Not by saying that it does not matter if we sin, because it does. But that, having sinned, we need to acknowledge our sin and turn back to our loving God.

+++    +++    +++    +++   
1 Chronicles 29:10, 11ab, 11d-12a, 12bcd

Lord, you are exalted over all.
“Blessed may you be, O LORD,
God of Israel our father,
from eternity to eternity.”
Lord, you are exalted over all.
“Yours, O LORD, are grandeur and power,
majesty, splendor, and glory.”
Lord, you are exalted over all.
“LORD, you are exalted over all.
Yours, O Lord, is the sovereignty;
you are exalted as head over all.
Riches and honor are from you.”
Lord, you are exalted over all.
“In your hand are power and might;
it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all.”
Lord, you are exalted over all.
+++    +++    +++    +++ 

Mark 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve
and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing
for the journey but a walking stick
–no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house,
stay there until you leave from there.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
We now reach a new stage in the formation of Jesus’ disciples. There was a calling of the first disciples to be “fishers of men”, then the choosing of twelve who would share in the very work of Jesus. Now the Twelve, the foundation of the future community, are being sent out to do exactly the same work that Jesus has been doing.

They have been given authority over unclean spirits, they preach repentance – that radical conversion to the vision of the Kingdom, anointing the sick with oil and healing them. Notice that these three activities cover the whole person: spiritual, mental and physical. Healing and wholeness, health and holiness. To be holy is to be whole.

They are instructed to travel lightly, bringing only what they absolutely need. No food or money or even a change of clothes. They will not need these things because they will be taken care of by the people they serve. They are to stay in the first house that takes them in. Overall, they are to show total dependence on and trust in God. This is freedom at its best. A model repeated by many saints and founders of religious congregations.

Do we really need all the baggage we carry through life? As someone has said: Those are really rich whose needs are the least. That is what Jesus is teaching us. And, of course, he was a living example.

The disciples went off and did the three central works of Jesus:
- They proclaimed the Kingdom and called for a radical change of heart from people so that they might see life in the way that Jesus, the Son of God, was proclaiming.
- They liberated many people from evil influences and compulsions. Freedom is of the essence of Christian discipleship.
- They anointed the sick with soothing oil and brought them healing and wholeness.

They not only preached the Kingdom; they made it a reality in people’s lives.  This is what we too are all called to do within the circumstances of our life. Having little but giving much.


Sarah in the tent said...

'and began to send them out, two by two.'

The phrase 'two by two' reminds me of Noah's Ark - creation is being renewed.

What sort of oil might they have used? Kitchen oil? Scented oil? Did the synagogues keep consecrated oil?

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Sarah, in ancient times, if a king is issuing orders to his generals, he is bound to send two messengers, to increase the likelihood that, if one is lost, the other will deliver the message. The same principle applies when Jesus is sending his disciples out to preach, teach, and heal.

Your insight into "two by tow" in Noah's Ark and creation renewed is "spot on". It is a reminder that the birds and the beasts -- and even more so, the people -- are not independent individuals, separate from each other, and responsible only for themselves, but members of a community -- the household of the Lord of Heaven.

What sort of oil did the disciples bring with them? No doubt the same oil that good cooks used in their kitchens, the oil with which the kings, priests and prophets were anointed, the oil that is pressed from the trees in the garden of Gethsemane, and was used by Magdalene and the other women to anoint the body of Jesus for his burial.