So as to be more available to the graces of the liturgy’s readings,
we might imagine Jesus’ telling his disciples the story of David’s twice
being able to kill Saul, but did not. The disciples marvel at the reverence
which David had for “the anointed of the Lord,” Saul. We can imagine Peter
shaking his head and murmuring about if he himself were David he would have
cut off his head and not merely the hem of Saul’s cloak.
Jesus smiles at Peter and the other disciples who had agreed that David had
been so close and didn’t have the guts to do the deed. Jesus has much to
tell them by the relating of this story, so he sits them down again and continues
We are back in class with our Teacher who is reminding us of the various
forms our exam is going to take. We hear direct and specific instructions
about how our being a disciple will manifest itself and him as well.
We can pray these days for a learning-spirit. As the disciples had to change
their hearts first and then their actions, so do we. These are hard to enact
teachings. We pray for patience and the grace to change our hearts, minds
and actions. We do not want to forgive, or give away, or take injuries without
redress. We are so of this world’s ways and of our fearful human heritage.
We need to be close to him and allow him to get close to us and then our
actions will be closer to his. Rather than asking for change, we might better
ask for a sense of intimacy with his person which might then be transforming
of our outward revelations of him.
In our First Reading, we have the second of two similar narratives about
David’s not killing King Saul. They are serious, but have a tinge of humor
in them as well. In chapter twenty-four we read of a great human situation.
It is almost out of Harry Potter. In this reading from Chapter 26 David had
Saul “dead” to rights and showed great reverence by allowing Saul to live.
In both stories David wanted Saul to know that he, David, was not jealous,
or trying to upstage his king, the “anointed of the Lord.”
The compassion or mercy or forgiveness is more than meets the ear here. The
judicial system in our countries as within our selves as well, may find various
reasons to extend freedom to someone. That is not what is going on here.
David is more than making a judicial decision. God has chosen Saul as King
and so it is God that is reverenced through allowing Saul to go free and
continue his being king.
Why is Saul chasing David to kill him? David has slain Goliath and is celebrated
for his great military deeds. Saul sees the people singing that while he
has killed some of their enemies, David has killed ten times that number.
Saul is jealous and fearful that David will become king. In an earlier part
of this story, Saul had thrown his spear at David while David was playing
the harp; he missed, but David had to flee. Saul has been searching all around
for David, but in these readings, we hear David finding Saul and showing
Saul a new form of mercy.
The Gospel continues Luke’s Sermon on the Level. Luke’s four beatitudes are
fleshed out and made more particular in these verses. They center generally
around the areas of how the follower of Jesus can reverse the natural tendencies
towards greed, harshness of judgement, mercilessness and vengeance. These
elements form quite an exact picture of our fallen-nature’s way.
The real challenge is for his hearers to be compassionate as God is compassionate
with them. This is the heart of the message. If there is going to be any
“good” in the Good News, there must be a previous awareness and acceptance
of the “bad” news. The Savior has come to save us; this is the Good News.
The “bad” news is that we have a fallen, vengeful, harsh, judgmental, greedy
and severe nature. We did not have to learn these qualities from a book or
teacher. They are known before we know our own names. The Savior is the teacher
here and instructs us on how to enjoy true happiness now and in a then which
is to come.
The “good” of the Good News is that the Savior and Teacher are patient, long-suffering,
invested in our well-being and compassionate beyond, no, not beyond belief,
Next Wednesday we will be signed with the ashes which indicate our awareness
of the “bad” news. We begin Lent as a celebration of our belief in the “Good”.
We are all and always his followers and his students. We have such a sense
of strict Justice. If we get slapped, it is not vengeance, but the virtue
of Justice which moves us to pay back in kind. Speaking of being paid back,
if we lend then in Justice we should expect something back in return. All
this sounds correct and good. In the upside down ways of Jesus what sounds
good is not and what sounds bad is blessed.
We love having good things dumped in our laps and Jesus promises just that,
but we wonder about when of the dumping.
We take these confrontations which Jesus offers to us into Lent. Which one
of these is our most “bad” news items? We are invited to be forgiving as
we have been forgiven. How does that float on your pond? As Savior, Jesus
saves us from the present-day hell of only and forever living our own personal
“bad” news.” Even the sinners do the same.”
“Lord, I believe that you are the Christ,
the Son of God, who was to come into this world.” John 11,27