29Jan 29/01. Friday, Week 3

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 11:1-4a, 5-10, 13-17

David’s adultery and his “executive murder” of Uriah

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” As Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant warriors. The men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite was killed as well. Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting; and he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling the king all the news about the fighting, then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who killed Abimelech son of Jerubbaal? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.”

Gospel: Mark 4:26-34

The seed grows mysteriously and becomes the largest of shrubs

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Bible

Sowing the seed of the future

The work of God is full of promise, but comes to fulfillment only after much time, like a seed patiently waiting in the darkness of the earth. There is suffering as the seed breaks apart and loses itself for the new sprout to develop and appear on the surface of the earth. We could try linking this parable about the seed (sown within the dark earth) with the reading from 2 Samuel which reveals David’s murky past.

The dark, inert “earth” where the seed nestles, breaks apart and begins its new life is foreshadowed in the account of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, where the king first tried to make his dedicated soldier, Uriah, go home and sleep with his wife, to conceal the source of her pregnancy; and then, when Uriah refuses the offer of ease and pleasure, David treacherously has him killed in battle. How the word of God seems to dissolve in the dark earth of human misery.

David’s act of marital treachery is just the first of a long series of murders, sexual excesses and revolts within David’s family. We are at a loss for an explanation of why God should use such a darkly complex and tangled family to fulfill of his promises about an everlasting dynasty. The very ones through whom the promises were passed on turn out to be Bathsheba and her future son Solomon.

We cannot explain how the seed which falls into the ground becomes stalks of wheat providing grain and bread or the largest of all shrubs so that the birds build nests in its shade, any more that we understand God’s ways in the history of David. Yet just as wheat provides bread and the mustard tree shade, so also the story of David consoles us secretly and says: God does not give up on us or lose patience with us. We can be restored as David was, and God will do what he has promised to us. The seed of the future is in us right now. Salvation is a patient interaction between God and ourselves. And we must encourage the salvation of each other, by showing patience and confidence in members of our family, community and neighbourhood, through the long dark hours when the seed is in the earth, breaking apart and showing little or no sign of what it can, and eventually will, become.

Little things that mean a lot

Sometimes we may feel that our good efforts at something are bearing very little fruit. We can get into a frame of mind that says, ‘What good have I been doing with my life?’ We can feel that we have precious little to show for our efforts. Yet, we can be doing a lot of good without realizing it or recognizing it. We can sometimes forget that even a little can go a long way. The little efforts we make, the little good we do, can have an impact for the better beyond our imagining. That seems to be the message of the two parables that Jesus speaks in today’s gospel reading. The mustard seed is tiny and yet it grows into a very large shrub. What looks completely insignificant takes on a life of its own and develops in a way that is out of proportion to the small beginning. Sometimes in our own lives, the little we do can go on to become something that we had never envisaged, and might never even get to see. The little bit of yeast that a woman places in a large batch of dough has a huge impact on that large batch. Again, in our own lives, the little good we do can impact on those around us in ways that would surprise us. Jesus says, that is what the kingdom of God is like. What is small and seemingly insignificant can turn out to be powerful and beneficial for many. [MH]

5 Responses

  1. Matthew Marshall

    I really appreciate the reflections on this website. I was introduced to them by a brother priest from my diocese. I use them to help me prepare for my daily homily for the next day. I hope you, dear author, understand the value of your labors which have borne fruit even across the Atlantic, in the U.S. Peace be with you brothers in Eire!

  2. Dominic

    the reflection shows a deep contemplation on the word of God

  3. Pat Rogers

    Many thanks for the kind affirmation. It’s a privilege to have the chance to offer this little service. The second homiletic approach we provide on most weekdays, usually on the day’s Gospel, is from Fr Martin Hogan [MH], whose work I highly admire.

  4. Patricia

    It’s amazing how we feel some sins are too outrageous to be forgiven by God, Uriah’s/David’s story tells us that God does not really want us to be lost.Your reflections are spiritual nourishment.

  5. Nicholas

    The reflections are part of my daily devotion and assist greatly in my spiritual formation. Your efforts touch Africa too!I echo the sentiments of Matthew, Dominic and Patricia.


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