No Regrets

February 1, 2022
Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

You have followed the story in these daily passages. Absalom rebels, designing to usurp his father’s throne. A massive battle rises between them. David, as commander-in-chief, remains behind, but gives instructions to his generals to spare Absalom’s life. Joab ignores the command, killing Absalom in a moment of vulnerability.

David is devastated.

David and Absalom – Marc Chagall
(Fair Use)

I think there is no more wrenching human emotion than regret. When I ministered for nearly a decade as hospice chaplain, and later in the emergency room, I saw so much regret.

People who had waited too long to say “I’m sorry”, “I forgive you”, “Let’s start over”, “Thank you for all you did for me”, “I love you”…..

Instead, these people stood at lifeless bedsides saying things like, “I should have”, “I wish…”, “If only…”


Life is complex and sometimes difficult. We get hurt, and we hurt others — sometimes so hurt that we walk away from relationship, or stay but wall ourselves off.

We might think that what is missing in such times is love. But I think it is more likely truth. In times of painful conflict, if we can hear and speak our truth to ourselves and one another, we open the path to healing.


If you want the truth, I’ll tell you the truth.
Listen to the secret sound,
the real sound, which is inside you.

Kabir

That healing may demand adjustments, agreements, even a willingness to step apart in mutual respect. But if the changes emerge from shared truth, restoration and wholeness are possible.


David and Absalom never found that path because they were so absorbed in their own self-interests. Theirs was the perfect formula for regret – that fruitless stump that perpetually sticks in the heart.


Poetry: How Clear, How Lovely Bright – A.E. Houseman

How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
    Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea   
Soars the delightful day.
To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
    Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
    I never kept before.
Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies
    Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground
    Falls the remorseful day

I remember a trauma surgeon leaving the hospital late one night after an unsuccessful effort to save a young boy who had been shot.

The doctor carried the loss so heavily as he walked into the night barely whispering to me, “I’m just going to go home and hug my kids.”

As we pray over David and Absalom today, let us examine our lives for the fractures that are still healable and act on them. Let us “hug” the life we have within and all around us. Regret is a lethal substitute.



When David Heard – Eric Whitaker ( The piece builds. Be patient. Lyrics below)

When David heard that Absalom was slain,
he went up into his chamber over the gate and wept,
and thus he said;

My son, my son,
O Absalom my son,
would God I had died for thee!

When David heard that Absalom was slain,
he went up into his chamber over the gate and wept,
and thus he said;

My son, my son.

Spirit Set Free

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have two highly dramatic passages in which a lot of people are annoying one another! If there were an Oscar category for “Best Biblical Drama”, these stories would definitely be nominees!

In our ongoing “David Saga”, the troubled king flees Jerusalem because his own son Absalom is plotting to overthrow him. David, at this point in time, is humbled and not a little wearied by the theatrics of his life. His sins continue to haunt him and wreak a recompense. 

Shimei curses David by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld

In today’s passage, we meet Shimei who has his own little miniseries going on in the Bible. Shimei is part of Saul’s family and holds David responsible for Saul’s demise. When meeting David in this passage, Shimei dangerously, and we might say stupidly, sets on him, throwing dirt and stones at the King. David prevents the troops from responding to the wildly outraged man. David even suggests that God may be trying to teach David something in the attack.

The Demoniac at Gadara

In our Gospel, we meet another wildly outraged man. This one is tormented by his inner demons, causing him also to put himself in dangerous situations. Jesus names this man’s tormentor and casts it out, giving the man control of himself again.


Have you ever been so offended, humiliated or injured that you felt outrage for yourself or another? Such fury chains us, making rationality and reconciliation close to impossible. Sometimes, it renders us impotent to name and address the deep source of our indignation.

Instead, we lash out with stones of anger or passive aggression – throwing the dirt of condemnation rather than seeking inner balance and healing.


Most of us have encountered large or small “dementors” in our life.
(Thanks for the term AND the image, Harry Potter)

But when I think of those who have endured unbelievable degrees of torment, I am amazed at their stories of faith and resolution: Anne Frank, Victor Frankel, Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman …. Jesus Christ. How did they come through it whole and blessed?

Maybe the possessed man in Mark’s Gospel was just lucky that day to run into Jesus. Or maybe he sought out Christ, trying to find stability in the midst of his derangement.

When we face our own imbalances can we stay still long enough to ask, as David did, “What is God teaching me in this. How can this lead me closer to God?” If we could, might we not be surprised to see our demons named, cast into the greater sea of God’s eternal wisdom, peace and love?


Poetry: Matthew VIII, 28 Fr. – Richard Wilbur
This poem, spoken by the residents of Gadara or Gerasa, imagines that they are more interested in their commerce than in miracles. They’re pretty disturbed about their pigs too

Rabbi, we Gadarenes
Are not ascetics; we are fond of wealth and possessions.
Love, as You call it, we obviate by means
Of the planned release of aggressions.
We have deep faith in properity.
Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential.
In the light of our gross product, the practice of charity
Is palpably non-essential.
It is true that we go insane;
That for no good reason we are
possessed by devils;
That we suffer, despite the amenities
which obtain
At all but the lowest levels.
We shall not, however, resign
Our trust in the high-heaped table and the full trough.
If You cannot cure us without destroying our swine,
We had rather You shoved off.


Music: Set My Spirit Free – Maranatha Singers

Love – The Unfailing Bridge

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we begin our readings with God’s stern but magnificent commission to the prophet Jeremiah: 

… stand up and tell them
all that I command you.

What Jeremiah had to tell the Israelites was not comforting news. He prophesied that if they didn’t repent from their idolatry, Jerusalem would fall into the hands of foreign oppressors. Nobody wanted to hear it. They led Jeremiah a life, to the point that he is often referred to as “The Weeping Prophet”. Over the course of forty years and the reign of five Judean kings, Jeremiah’s message continues until, in the end, it comes to fulfillment in the Babylonian Captivity.

Jeremiah Lamenting the Fall of Jerusalem
Rembrandt

How did Jeremiah sustain such confrontational preaching in the face of intractable resistance?

Perhaps the answer lies in our second reading. He did it out of love.

Arthur Cundall, a British scripture scholar writes:

“God wanted a person
with a very gentle and tender heart
for this unrewarding ministry of condemnation.
Jeremiah’s subsequent career shows that
he had this quality in full measure.”

Jeremiah is a living example of the loving, humble, truth-seeking, hope-impelled soul described in 1 Corinthians, our second reading.

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues,
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy,
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.

1 Corinthians 13: 1-2

In Luke’s Gospel today, we see Jesus rejected in the same manner as Jeremiah. Jesus’s message calls his listeners to deep conversion of heart in order to be redeemed. Like the ancient Israelites, they don’t want to hear it. They cannot break through their comfortable existence to acknowledge its emptiness.

Jesus is Rejected at Nazareth
Maerten de Vos – 16th Century

And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place….

… When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Luke 4:24; 28-30

The message for us today? Is there an emptiness somewhere in our hearts that we have not yet given over to God? Are we filling it with “false gods”, rather than the loving virtues described in Corinthians? Is there even a small resistance to the Word that keeps us in a “dead space”.

We know where our “dead spaces” are, and we deeply intend them to come alive again. Today, let’s choose to walk the bridge from intention to practice.


Poetry: Jeremiah – Saint John Henry Newman

"WOE'S me!" the peaceful prophet cried,
"Spare me this troubled life;
To stem man's wrath, to school his pride,
To head the sacred strife!

"O place me in some silent vale,
Where groves and flowers abound;
Nor eyes that grudge, nor tongues that rail,
Vex the truth-haunted ground!"

If his meek spirit err'd, opprest
That God denied repose,
What sin is ours, to whom Heaven's rest
Is pledged, to heal earth's woes?

Music:  One of my all time favorite songs (Wow! And how about the snow geese at the end of this video!)

Failure and Forgiveness

January 29, 2022
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings call us to consider and to cherish our relationship with our merciful God.

In our first reading, God sends the prophet Nathan to confront David with the enormity of his sin. With the parable of the ravaged little lamb, Nathan captures all the horrific implications of David’s blind selfishness.

Nathan Denounces David’s Sin
William Brassey Hole

David listens and agrees with the condemnation, still blind that the story is about him! Nathan then unleashes the zinger, “You are the man!


But here is the key point of the passage. When David realizes his culpability, he does not retreat into his shame (as, for example, Judas does many years hence.) David acknowledges his fault and asks to be restored to relationship with the God Who has loved him so much.

David focuses on God not himself.  He does not wallow in self-recrimination or excuses. David looks to God’s Mercy not into the mirror of self-justification:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan answered David: “For his part, the LORD has removed your sin. You shall not die…

2 Samuel 12:13
It all transpires in this one verse. That simple, definitive change wrought by divine forgiveness constitutes the structure of Psalm 51 as well as the 2 Samuel narrative. It is the same structure in Christian liturgy as well. In psalm, narrative, and liturgy, it is a move from failure to restoration, a move from confession to assurance, even if the assurance is only implied in Psalm 51. The exchange is between human failure and divine assurance, made possible by human honesty and a divine readiness to begin again in mercy, steadfast love, and compassion.
Walter Brueggemann - From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

For prayer today, a deep reflection on Psalm 51 may bring us light and healing, for our own spirits and for the spirit of the world we share.


Poetry: Psalm 51 – A New Heart – Christine Robinson

Have mercy on me, O God,
   For I’ve messed up again
Sinned against You in thought, word and deed,
   and in what I have left undone.
Been--all too human.

Can you make me a new heart, O God?
   and a right spirit? Can you break my willful plundering
   of all that is Yours? 
If I got it together again, others would follow—
I could teach, guide, help—and I would!

O Lord, open my lips,
  that I may praise you.
I know you don’t want ritual sacrifice
   were I to give a burnt offering you’d be exasperated.
What you want is that new heart and right spirit. 
   For this, I pray.

Music: Miserere Mei (Have Mercy on Me, O God) – Gregorio Allegri 

David Falls Down

January 28, 2022
Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we clearly are being taught. The first lesson comes from a gripping iconic story in Samuel – the treacherous murder of Uriah; the second from the Markan Parables – the miraculous mustard seed.

In our first reading, the noble, kingly David takes a mighty fall. He has tripped over his own power and descended into a chasm of indifference, lust, manipulation, deceit, and murder. Walter Brueggemann captures the immensity of the story here:

II Samuel 11:1–27 
We are now at the pivotal turning point in the narrative plot of the books of Samuel. We are also invited into the presence of delicate, subtle art. We are at the threshold of deep, aching psychology, and at the same time we are about to witness a most ruthless political performance. In this narrative we are in the presence of greatness. For David and for Israel, we are at a moment of no return. Innocence is never to be retrieved. From now on the life of David is marked, and all Israel must live with that mark.

David handing over a letter to Uriah, 1619 – Pieter Lastman

Unfortunately, David’s moral depravity is reshaped and retold in thousands of other biographies throughout history as “strongmen” (and women) grasp power. Too bad David, and those like him, could not have benefitted from some later-age wisdom such as these two quotables:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
~ John Dalberg-Acton, letter to Bishop Mandela Creighton, (April 1887)


One uncontrolled character flaw can ruin your greatest accomplishment.
~ Wayde Goodall, Why Great Men Fall: 15 Winning Strategies to Rise Above It All (2005)


While David’s sinfulness had corrupted the concept of “kingdom”, in Mark, Jesus teaches us a divinely refreshed understanding of the term.

When asked what the kingdom of heaven is like, Jesus describes generous, inclusive reality sprung from humble, hopeful investment:

To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.

Mark 4: 30-32

Perhaps our prayer today is best reflected in the Alleluia Verse – a plea to retain, in our choices, the deep innocence of faith:

Blessed are you, Creator, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.

Matthew 11:25

Praying with that this morning, I offer you the innocent drawing of my 6 year-old grand-nephew Robert, an interpretation of what it means to fall down.

Something Falling Down, as titled by the Artist

Poetry: When the Great Trees Fall – Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

Music: All the King’s Horses – Aretha Franklin
Although the song is not biblical, the lyrics carry similar emotions to the ones we find in the reading from Samuel.

Where Does God Live?

January 27, 2022
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we might take this question to our prayer: where does God dwell for me?

In our reading from Samuel, David had received an oracle (divine message) through the prophet Nathan. (see 2 Samuel 7:1-17) The essence of the three-way conversation is this: David is putting on the trappings of his kingship, including some fancy housing. He decides that God deserves a great house too and that David is going to build it. God says something like, “Hold up, David! — I’m the Divine Architect and Builder.” David is forcefully reminded that everything he has depends on God. In today’s passage, David humbly acknowledges all this while begging God to stay true to the promise of Israel’s prosperity:

Who am I, Lord GOD,
and who are the members of my house,
that you have brought me to this point?
Yet even this you see as too little, Lord GOD;
you have also spoken of the house of your servant
for a long time to come:
this too you have shown to man, Lord GOD

You have established for yourself your people Israel
as yours forever, and you, LORD, have become their God.
And now, LORD God, confirm for all time
the prophecy you have made
concerning your servant and his house,
and do as you have promised.

2 Samuel 7:18; 24-25

While these chapters tell us the great story of emerging kingship and messianic hope in the Judeo-Christian tradition, they also offer us some simpler thoughts for our prayer this morning.

Through our Baptism, we have been made temples of the Holy Spirit. We are made so by the grace and power of God so that we can reflect God’s Presence in our times. We are not all that different from David (except maybe we’re an uncrowned mini-version!)

It’s crucial to remember Who it is that built my “house” or “temple”.
I have not built a house for God.
God has built a house for me,
crafted from Baptismal Grace,
Confirmational Hope and
Eucharistic Love.

As God promised David, so God promises me, within the community of faith, to faithfully answer my prayer which might echo David’s:

Your servant now finds the courage to make this prayer to you.
And now, Lord GOD, you are God and your words are truth;
you have made this generous promise to your servant.
Do, then, bless the house of your servant
that it may be before you forever;
for you, Lord GOD, have promised,
and by your blessing the house of your servant
shall be blessed forever.”

2 Samuel 7:28-29

Poetry: Rabindranath Tagore

While God waits
for his temple
to be built of love,
men bring stones.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley

  1. I fall on my knees to the father of Jesus,
    The Lord who has shown us the glory of God.
  2. May he in his love give us strength for our living
    The strength of his spirit the glory of God.

Refrain
May Christ find a dwelling place of faith in our hearts.
May our lives be rooted in love, rooted in love.

  1. May grace and peace be yours in God our father
    and in his son (Refrain)
  2. I fall on my knees to the father of Jesus,
    The Lord who has shown us the glory of God (Refrain)

The Flame

January 26, 2022
Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have the beautiful letter from Paul to Timothy, filled with tenderness, encouragement, hope and the sweet suggestion of loving memories.

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Tim 1:1

On life’s road, what an indescribable blessing to have even one companion who loves us the way Paul loved Timothy — to care for our whole life, our whole soul, and our whole “forever”.


Timothy and His Mother, Eunice – Henry Lejeune

In his letter, Paul reveals that Timothy has been immensely blessed with such love throughout his life. Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois have already – for many years – tendered Timothy in the faith.

I think gratefully of my own mother today, on the 34th anniversary of her death. How indescribably blessed I have been by her love and faith!


In this heartfelt epistle, Paul notes that he prays for Timothy daily. Perhaps as you read his words you may, like me, think of those who have nurtured and cared for you in a way similar to Paul’s love for Timothy; to Eunice’s and Lois’s love for him.

Do we pray for those who have blessed us and loved us in our lives? Do we tell them so, if they are living? Do we thank and remember them if they have gone home to God?


Paul closes this part of his letter with such a powerful charge to Timothy:

For this reason,
I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have
through the laying on of my hands.

In other words, it is not enough just to be grateful for such gifts. We must use them to light and warm a next generation of believers and faith-filled lovers.

Many people have rested the hands
of blessing on our spirits, our hearts.
May we be filled with generous gratitude
today and everyday.


For those who have done otherwise, may we forgive them and, as best we can, release them to God’s Mercy. Perhaps they, by the grace of God, have left us with another kind of “gift” — as Mary Oliver has written:

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Poetry: God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


Music: for your remembering prayer: James Last – Coulin

Paul’s Conversion

January 25, 2022
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read about Paul’s “enlightening” ride on the road to Damascus. I have blogged about the feast several times, and you can access one of those blogs if you wish by searching on the right-hand side of the webpage.

Caravaggio – The Conversion of St. Paul

Before my own prayer today, I read a masterful poem by John Keble and listened to beautiful music by Felix Mendelssohn. I’d like to share them with you for today’s reflection.


Poetry: The Conversion of St. Paul – John Keble, an English churchman and poet, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Keble College, Oxford, was named after him.

And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him,
Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? 
And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? 
And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 
Acts ix. 4, 5. (KJV)

The mid-day sun, with fiercest glare,
Broods o’er the hazy twinkling air:   
Along the level sand
The palm-tree’s shade unwavering lies,
Just as thy towers, Damascus, rise   
To greet you wearied band.

The leader of that martial crew
Seems bent some mighty deed to do,   
So steadily he speeds,
With lips firm closed and fixèd eye,
Like warrior when the fight is nigh,   
Nor talk nor landscape heeds.

What sudden blaze is round him poured,
As though all Heaven’s refulgent hoard  
 In one rich glory shone?
One moment—and to earth he falls:
What voice his inmost heart appalls?—   
Voice heard by him alone.

For to the rest both words and form
Seem lost in lightning and in storm,   
While Saul, in wakeful trance,
Sees deep within that dazzling field
His persecuted Lord revealed,   
With keen yet pitying glance:

And hears time meek upbraiding call
As gently on his spirit fall,   
As if th’ Almighty Son
Were prisoner yet in this dark earth,
Nor had proclaimed His royal birth,   
Nor His great power begun.

“Ah! wherefore persecut’st thou Me?
”He heard and saw, and sought to free   
His strained eyes from the sight:
But Heaven’s high magic bound it there,
Still gazing, though untaught to bear   
Th’ insufferable light.

“Who art Thou, Lord?” he falters forth:—
So shall Sin ask of heaven and earth   
At the last awful day.
“When did we see Thee suffering nigh,
And passed Thee with unheeding eye?   
Great God of judgment, say!”

Ah! little dream our listless eyes
What glorious presence they despise,   
While, in our noon of life,
To power or fame we rudely press.—
Christ is at hand, to scorn or bless,   
Christ suffers in our strife.

And though heaven’s gate long since have closed,
And our dear Lord in bliss reposed,   
High above mortal ken,
To every ear in every land
(Thought meek ears only understand)   
He speaks as he did then.

“Ah! wherefore persecute ye Me?’
Tis hard, ye so in love should be   
With your own endless woe.
Know, though at God’s right hand I live,
I feel each wound ye reckless give   
To the least saint below.

“I in your care My brethren left,
Not willing ye should be bereft   
Of waiting on your Lord.
The meanest offering ye can make—
A drop of water—for love’s sake,   
In Heaven, be sure, is stored.”

O by those gentle tones and dear,
When thou hast stayed our wild career,   
Thou only hope of souls,
Ne’er let us cast one look behind,
But in the thought of Jesus find   
What every thought controls.
As to Thy last Apostle’s heart
Thy lightning glance did then impart  
Zeal’s never-dying fire,
So teach us on Thy shrine to lay
Our hearts, and let them day by day  
Intenser blaze and higher.
And as each mild and winning note
(Like pulses that round harp-strings float   
When the full strain is o’er)
Left lingering on his inward ear
Music, that taught, as death drew near,   
Love’s lesson more and more:

So, as we walk our earthly round,
Still may the echo of that sound   
Be in our memory stored
“Christians! behold your happy state:
Christ is in these, who round you wait;   
Make much of your dear Lord!”

Music: Paulus – Felix Mendelssohn – the Overture from the Oratorio

David, the King

January 24, 2022
Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings place us at watershed moments in the lives of David and Jesus.

All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said:
“Here we are, your bone and your flesh.
In days past, when Saul was our king, 
it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back.
And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel 
and shall be commander of Israel.’”
When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, 
King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD, 
and they anointed him king of Israel.

2 Samuel 5:1-4

In 2 Samuel 5, David fully assumes the kingship through the approbation of the community. The scene marks the culmination of his rise to power and “the beginning of the rest of his life”.

Through our readings in Samuel until now, we have ascended with David to the pinnacle of his life. We are about to begin weeks of moving down “the other side of the mountain”.


Scholars generally see the David narrative in two primary units, the Rise of David (I Sam. 16:1—II Sam. 5:10) and the Succession Narrative (II Sam. 9:1—20:26; I Kings 1:1—2:46). Chapters 5:11—8:18, fall between two larger units. Whereas the first presents David in his ascendancy, the second presents David in his demise and expresses pathos and ambiguity. Our chapters thus come after the raw vitality of the rise of David and before the terrible pathos of the succession narrative. They show the painful process whereby this beloved chieftain is transformed into a hardened monarch, who now has more power than popular affection.

Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel

In our Gospel, Jesus also comes to a sort of “continental divide”. But rather than community approbation, Jesus encounters the condemnation of the scribes who have come from Jerusalem to assess him.

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, 
“He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and
“By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Mark 3:22

From this moment in his life, Jesus too launches into his “kingship”, one that looks very different from David’s. The ensuing chapters of Samuel will reveal how David struggles and succumbs to the temptations of power and domination. The Gospels, on the other hand, describe Jesus’s “kingdom” as one of humility, mercy, and love for those who are poor and suffering.

Only through faith can we understand the inverse power of God present in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and in our own lives. Jesus, the “new David”, is anointed in the Spirit to reveal and incorporate us into the kingdom of God.


Prose: from Immanuel Jakobovits who was the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1967 to 1991.

To those without faith
there are no answers.
To those with faith, 
there are no questions.

Music: King David, music by Herbert Howells, sung by Sarah Connolly from a poem by Walter de la Mare

King David – Walter de la Mare

King David was a sorrowful man:
    No cause for his sorrow had he;
    And he called for the music of a hundred harps,
    To ease his melancholy.

    They played till they all fell silent:
    Played-and play sweet did they;
    But the sorrow that haunted the heart of King David
    They could not charm away.

    He rose; and in his garden
    Walked by the moon alone,
    A nightingale hidden in a cypress-tree
    Jargoned on and on.

    King David lifted his sad eyes
    Into the dark-boughed tree-
    ''Tell me, thou little bird that singest,
    Who taught my grief to thee?'

    But the bird in no wise heeded
    And the king in the cool of the moon
    Hearkened to the nightingale's sorrowfulness,
    Till all his own was gone.

Unfold the Word

January 23, 2022
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings focus on Sacred Scripture as the revealed Word of God.

Ezra, from our first passage, lived almost 500 years before Christ during the Babylonian captivity, a time when much of the population of Judea was deported to what is modern day Iraq. When the Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, the Jews were permitted to return to Judea.

Ezra Reads the Law to the People – Gustave Dore

During the sixty-year enslavement, many Jews lost touch with their culture, language and religion. Our reading describes Ezra’s efforts to restore the Jewish character of the community by reintroducing them to the Torah. He has to read to them, translating the Hebrew for those who no longer speak the language.

In a gesture foretelling the liberating ministry of Jesus, Ezra unrolls the scroll – symbolic of bringing to light that which has been hidden or buried.

Jesus in the Synagogue at Nazareth – Anonymous

In our Gospel, Jesus too unrolls the scroll. In doing so, Jesus reveals the heart of faith which had been buried within the Law. Jesus preaches in a new “language” – the language of God’s all-inclusive mercy, forgiveness, and love.


For us who believe, the holy scriptures are a Living Word which, through thoughtful prayer, will continually reveal God’s heart to us. It is worth our time and attention to become friends with these sacred messages.

Many of you, dear readers, will be familiar with the ancient prayer practice of “lectio divina”. In her book “Too Deep for Words”, Sister Thelma Hall describes the practice:

… a wholistic way of prayer which disposes, opens, and “in-forms” us for the gift of contemplation God waits to give, by leading us to a place with him at our deepest center … It begins this movement by introducing us to the power of the Word of God in scripture to speak to the most intimate depths of our hearts …

Sister Thelma Hall’s book, a classic, is available on Amazon for those who might enjoy exploring Lectio Divina. I highly recommend it. My copy, nearly 30 years old, is beginning to show its age, but then again, so am I!

Poetry: The Word Of God – George MacDonald

Where the bud has never blown
Who for scent is debtor?
Where the spirit rests unknown
Fatal is the letter.
In thee, Jesus, Godhead-stored,
All things we inherit,
For thou art the very Word
And the very Spirit!

Music: Word of God Speak ~ Mercy Me