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.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Monday, July 11, 2005

Tragedy

Daily Readings
Psalm 104 + I Samuel 15:1-33 + Judith 11 + Hebrews 8

Quote of the Day
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Hebrews 8:10

Daily Text: I Samuel 16:1-3, 7-26
The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." 2Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you." 7But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen any of these." 11Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here." 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; for this is the one." 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
14 Now the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. 15And Saul's servants said to him, "See now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16Let our lord now command the servants who attend you to look for someone who is skillful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will feel better." 17So Saul said to his servants, "Provide for me someone who can play well, and bring him to me." 18One of the young men answered, "I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the LORD is with him." 19So Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, "Send me your son David who is with the sheep." 20Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a kid, and sent them by his son David to Saul. 21And David came to Saul, and entered his service. Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 22Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight." 23And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.

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

Tragedy
This is the demise of Saul; everything after this is anti-climactic for Saul. He is charged with carrying out an old command of Moses’ in Exodus 17:14, that Amalek be utterly destroyed. Before Saul gets back north to his home, the LORD tells Samuel of Saul’s failure. It is in the night and Samuel is both angry at Saul and grieved for him. He cries out to the LORD all night on Saul’s behalf to no avail. Saul has rejected YHWH’s commands and he has in turn rejected Saul as king. By the time Samuel meets up with Saul who detours to build a monument to himself in Carmel, he has accepted God’s decision and he betrays no sympathy for Saul. In fact, he learns first hand what God has already told him in the night, and presumably his anger towards Saul takes over. Nothing that Saul says makes any difference. Obviously, Saul does not believe he has committed an unpardonable sin for he confesses that he has sinned and asks for pardon to no avail. The most he gets from Samuel is an agreement to help him save face, and yet when Samuel goes with him to sacrifice, Samuel discovers Agag, the king, still alive and previously undeclared. He kills Agag himself in a macabre ritual at the sacrificial site in Gilgal.

There is no way to put a mediating face on this tragedy. Brueggeman [430] goes sailing off into sympathy for Saul who is piously trying, in his words, to balance theology and real politic, against an angry conservative Samuel and a God even more unreconstructed. Nonsense. It is true that once God rejects Saul there is no going back, but Samuel continues to grieve [cf. 15: 35, 16:1]. One way to sympathize with Saul and hold him accountable at the same time is simply to accept that this role was beyond his capability.
We do serve a God who is always willing to forgive, but that same God always holds us accountable for the acts requiring forgiveness. Saul made his choices and he lost not only a dynasty (13:13, 14), but his own hold on kingship. The LORD is looking for ‘a man after his own heart’[13:14]. He continues to look for men, women and children who reflect his own sensibilities.

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

from Renascence
Conclusion
Edna St. Vincent Millay

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,--
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.
407:891

(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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