28 Jan. Saturday of Week Three
Also: St Thomas Aquinas
2 Samuel 12:1ff. David’s sin with Bathsheba and in murdering her husband will be punished by violence within his own family.
Mark 4:35ff. Jesus quells the storm at sea, showing his divine power in overcoming the forces of nature.
Limitations and ideals
We are just human beings, not angels, certainly not gods; we live on planet earth, not yet in our heavenly mansions. We deal with hopes and struggle with opposition, with our eyes, ears and mouths, our imagination, memory and intellect, our emotions and will-power, faculties that function only while we are awake, that operate only according to the strength and resiliency of our body.
Alongside these limitations, another facet stares us in the face, both from the Scriptures and from observation of life, our own and others, personally seen or known through newspaper, TV and radio. We see handicapped people sometimes accomplishing more than many who are in full health and vigour; and others who are faithful, day after day, to family obligations, and are dedicated to helping others with their health needs and getting their social rights. These people carry on as though such routine heroism is normal, though we ourselves would find it hard to persevere even for a month in such circumstances.
People sometimes achieve what seems beyond human strength, not by keeping their heads in the clouds but by keeping their feet on the earth of our earthly pilgrimage. The readings invite us to reflect on the call to heroism through the lives of men and women whose lives were far from faultless. These were ordinary folk, with human weakness and temptations – yet lived with confident assurance about things we do not see.
Even rulers share the human condition of common folk, as is clear in the story of David . His affair with Bathsheba can be humanly explained, and in the royal protocol of the ancient Near East was absolutely normal. Yet the prophet Nathan speaks God’s judgment which cuts through human excuses to state dramatically, “You are the one! Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you despised me in taking the wife of Uriah to be your wife.”
Ideals are more than statements in a book, even a book as sacred as the Bible; they go beyond mere philosophical deductions, for God is immediately and personally involved. Nathan, in God’s name, tells David, “You despised me in taking the wife of Uriah to be your wife.” God is the origin of our ideals, so that in acting as we know we should, we seek God and love God; as on the contrary, when we hurt others, we repudiate and despise God. This is concretised in Jesus’ words: “As often as you did it for one of my little ones, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:40).
He is with us always. We are not alone during the storms at sea, when buffeted by raging wind and by waves breaking against our “boat.” Jesus says to us, as to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Why so little faith?” In him our inabilities are suffused with new strength and our eyes see again a vision of our heavenly home, that enables us while still on earth to forgive, to be patient, to remain faithful, and to put our ideals to work.
2 Samuel 12:1-7, 10-17
The Lord sent Nathan to David. He went to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.” Then Nathan went to his house.
The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted, and went in and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his house stood beside him, urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.
Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”