When you examine the first and second readings today in light of the gospel, the twin truths of human suffering and God’s mercy frame the simple Gospel passage recording Jesus’ appointing of the disciples. The Church’s teleological message rings true for each of us: How do we hold onto the faith of God’s protective mercy while we battle the stormy torrents we confront each day and in those extra-challenging waves?
In the first reading, 1 Samuel 24:3-12, we witness the moment when Saul’s pursuit of David lands Saul in a cave surrounded by David’s men, who are all eager to destroy him for what he has done in persecuting David. David holds his men back, and merely cuts off a small piece of Saul’s cloak as a symbolic gesture. When David’s men call out for vengeance, David “said to his men, ‘Yahweh preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord as to raise my hand against him, since he is Yahweh’s anointed.’ David’s message to his men and to us is simple: No one has the right to destroy a person placed in authority over you, even if the authority figure is doing wrong to you. It is not justice or mercy that guides David, but proper obedience to authority. In fact, David repents of having harmed Saul’s garment rather than celebrating his self-restraint in not killing Saul. Humility is not just a response, but the virtue that guides him.
In the second reading, Psalms 57:2, 3-4, 6, 11, David pours out his desperate plea to God by describing his seemingly hopeless situation: “I lie surrounded by lions, greedy for human prey, their teeth nad spears and arrows, their tongue of sharp sword.” This recitation of raw fear remains packaged between statements of trust in God. David calls out to “God who has done everything for me.” And he closes with “Your glory over all the Earth!” David recognizes that, even in his most dire moment, God “has done everything” for him, which includes overseeing him in these present dangers.
These messages are the doctrinal back-story to Jesus appointing the disciples. We know that the disciples were to face great hardship, and this was the sign of their chosenness — their selection for a special kind of suffering in building the kingdom.
And would we expect anything less for ourselves? We face challenges that seem insurmountable. We have children who lead lives of grave danger. We lose loved ones unexpectedly. We face personal injustices, and we live in a country that allows the gravest of sins to be sanctioned by law. Perplexing, no doubt. Discouraging – yes. But ultimately this is the reality before us. “God has done everything for me” … and I face the tragedies and sufferings that lie before me. In the midst of pain and sorrow, fear and worry, confusion and ambivalence….this is the juncture where people either cling to the Lord or they run from him in faithless rejection.
Like David, let us bare our souls to the Lord. Like David, let us praise the Lord in advance of suffering, in the midst of suffering, and for relief and understanding to overcome suffering with virtue as our guide and mercy as our strong support.
Please join me in lifting up Anne and her family at the sudden death of Anne’s father:
Bless those who mourn, eternal God, with the comfort of your love that they may face each new day with hope and the certainty that nothing can destroy the good that has been given. May their memories become joyful, their days enriched with friendship, and their lives encircled by your love. Amen.
And pray for the repose of the soul of God’s servant, Edward.