Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Heavy Hand of Holiness

Daily Readings
Psalm 95 + I Samuel 6:1-7:2 + Judith 2 + Mark 15

Quote of the Day
Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews? Mark 15: 12

Daily Text: I Samuel 6:1-2, 10-12, 20
The ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2Then the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, "What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us what we should send with it to its place."
10 The men did so; they took two milch cows and yoked them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11They put the ark of the LORD on the cart, and the box with the gold mice and the images of their tumors. 12The cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went; they turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. 20Then the people of Beth-shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? To whom shall he go so that we may be rid of him?"

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

The Heavy Hand of Holiness
The issue surrounding all of this agitation is the holiness of the God of Israel, the otherness of YHWH. The Philistines cannot take having the ark of God in their cities. If they had only turned to him and worshipped him they would have been alright, but evidently that never occurred to them. This was the God of the despised Hebrews and so they sent him ‘back.’ Initially overjoyed to see the ark of God, some of their number either refused to be ‘overjoyed’ or more likely they curiously looked into the ark ignoring the well-known taboo against doing so. Several, perhaps as many as seventy from one clan died for this behavior. Shades of Sinai. The Otherness, the Holiness of God is frightening to humankind. Even those who originally welcomed the ark at Beth-shemesh, suddenly feared it and wanted to get rid of ‘him.’ Suddenly, what had happened to the Philistines was no longer hilarious; Israelites too were subject to the wrath of God.

What to do with the holiness of God? It is a question that always haunts the believer and the would-be believer. Responses have ranged from those who hie themselves away into a wilderness to those who immerse themselves in the world around them. The one trying to become ‘other’ themselves, and the latter ignoring the implications. In the New Testament there is the invitation to become ‘perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.’ Such ‘otherness’ is not stigmatized, but invited, and some of the best models for it include those who stayed very involved in the world around them. The holiness of God is to be emulated, but not idolized. The Philistines ‘bought’ their peace with gold and the recognition that YHWH was to be feared. I love the test they contrived to figure out whether God was indeed in control or whether the tumors and the mice were coincidental. They had no question by the end of the day. The Beth-shemesh community simply feared him and wanted ‘him’ gone. They knew that death had come at God’s hand and they were unwilling to look reflectively at their own behavior. But that is what we are called to throughout Holy Scripture. There need be no one answer, but each community must wrestle with the question of the holiness of God and the response of their own community.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

Batter My Heart
from “Holy Sonnets,” XIX
John Donne,

Batter my heart, three-personed God: for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lovèd fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free;
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.


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