27th January. Monday in Week 3 of Ordinary Time
Saint Angela Merici, virgin.
Angela de Merici, (1474-1540) from Desenzano del Garda converted her house into a school for girls and later founded an association of consecrated women to devote their lives to this work. She founded the Order of Ursulines in 1535 in Brescia, northern Italy.
1st Reading: 2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10
(David is anointed and establishes Jerusalem as capital of both north and south, of Israel and Judah.)
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
(Jesus does not cast out devils by the power of Satan. Only sins against the Spirit cannot be forgiven.)
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.”
Planning the way to 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.” 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 accord as well as political expertise. These are especially relevant values to reflect on during church unity week.
In the gospel Jesus emphasises loyalty to the Holy Spirit and an unswerving rejection of Satan. In fact, he solemnly warns of the one sin which “will never be forgiven,” namely blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We need to reverence the Holy Spirit and let ourselves see the goodness in others; and so judging with sympathy and compassion, be able to forgive others as they forgive us, so as to forge with them a reunited Church.
Guided by the Holy Spirit 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. The first reading provides hints about this pursuit of peace. When the elders of the northern tribes come to David to sue for peace in the brief civil war that flared up after Saul’s death, their 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 disputations, to the basic union of the family of faith. In turn, David chose for the capital of the united kingdom a neutral city where each group would be equally represented. Our union with others should be based on genuine mutual accomodation, not on a demand for unilateral surrender. Christian unity is sought not for selfish advantage or the dominance of one polity over another, but for the shared benefit of all.