23 Jan. Monday of Week Three
2 Samuel 5:1ff. David is anointed and establishes Jerusalem as capital of both north and south, of Israel and Judah.
Mark 3:22-30. Jesus does not cast out devils by the power of Satan. Only sins against the Spirit cannot be forgiven.
The Price of Unity
Unity, its high cost and its great reward, is a central value in today’s readings. As we read in Second Samuel, David creates a single kingdom out of the rival and jealous groups, the people of southern Judah and those of northern Israel. Finally, Jesus summarizes our thinking in a very practical way, “A household, divided according to loyalties, cannot survive.” The high cost of unity is particularly evident in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Through the blood of Jesus, poured out on the cross, we are united as one single community of faith and united with God in the heavenly Holy of Holies. Today’s reading returns several times to the subject of death and of blood. What the epistle states succinctly in refined theological language, the two Books of Samuel extend over many chapters as they tell of David’s gradual rise to power and his suave way of gaining the loyalty of the north. We need to remember that David came from the southern tribe of Judah, an area seldom to the forefront of biblical attention up to this point; Mosaic leadership and tradition had been concentrated in the northern region of Israel. To build unity required a strong theological synthesis as well as persistent political expertise. These conditions are clear enough in the first reading of cycles I and II.
In the gospel Jesus puts the cost of unity in terms of a strong and continuous loyalty to the Holy Spirit and an unswerving rejection of Satan. In fact, Jesus solemnly warns of the one sin which “will never be forgiven,” namely blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Those who sin against the Spirit will “carry the guilt of their sin without end.” Persons who sin against the light, blinding themselves to the evident goodness of others, ascribing the good deeds of others to unworthy motives, closing their heart to the call for compassion and forgiveness – such persons close themselves to the presence of the Holy Spirit. In other words, then, there must be a unity and integral wholeness about ourselves: our intellect united with our eyes that see the goodness in others; our intellect united with our memory and so arriving at the solid wisdom of good experience; our intellect united with our flesh and blood and so judging with sympathy and compassion, able to forgive others.
There cannot be a bond of union and trust in a family, community, church or nation, unless each individual first strives to be peacefully united within the complexity of one’s character. We must be possessed by the Holy Spirit and through this Spirit find our inner peace, our sincere and kindly awakening to the world around us. We will not attribute the good deeds of others to Satan even if their actions threaten us in some way and seem difficult to harmonize with some of our own ideas.
Once we have achieved inner peace and unity in the Holy Spirit, we are disposed to reach outward and strive for peace and unity in the local world of our family and neighbourhood, and to support good causes that work for peace in the larger world of Church and among nations. The reading from Second Samuel provides hints about this pursuit of peace. When the elders of the northern tribes (Israel) come to David and sue for peace (in the brief civil war that flared up between Israel and Judah after Saul’s death), their first and only appeal was to the common bonds of humanity, “Here we are, your own flesh and bone.” They cut through all kinds of arguments, justifications and clever dealings, to the basic union of flesh and bone. What an extraordinary statement when people are divided by race or wealth (or the lack of it), even by religion and politics, “Here we are, your own flesh and bone.” Further, even though the elders of Israel come to David, who is actually their only hope of decent human existence, he does not take advantage of them. Rather he chose a new city for the capital of the united kingdoms of Israel and Judah, a neutral city where each group would be equally represented. Our union with others should reach into the roots of our existence, our bone and our flesh, where no person is better or different than another person. Secondly, union cannot be just for one’s selfish advantage but for the common good and shared happiness of all.
2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10
Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back” – thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of avid. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.
Gospel: Mark 3:22-30
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” – for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”