A first look at today's readings can make you wonder what does King David have to do with the Kingdom of God. The first reading and the Gospel appear to be almost opposed to each other. It is so easy to distance oneself from what David did in the first reading, after all we have never committed murder, right!? However, as I ponder deeper on the readings, I can't help but think, "Oh God, truly your word is a light unto my path." As I read and meditate on the readings over the past week, I marvel at the wonder of our God. How he faithfully reaches out to us and provides examples to direct our lives through the Holy Scriptures.
Even though Jesus spoke in parables, the gospel reading clearly tells us what the Kingdom of God is like. Jesus said,
"It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear."
There are two phrases there that can give a clue as to the connection between the readings: "he knows not how" and "of its own accord"; the man who scatters the seeds has precious little to do with the kingdom of God. He merely scatters the seeds and has no power to make the seeds grow. In the same way, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God nor can we bring it about nor make it grow on our own accord, no matter how well intentioned we may be. Let's take a look at the story of King David and see what we can learn from it about our sinfulness and God's great mercy.
This passage is specifically about David’s life and the after effect of a bad decision. Let’s not be quick to summarize this passage should we miss some of the potent points and the real message which our Lord wishes to teach us through careful analysis of the entire passage. What can we learn and on what should we ponder during our reflection?
Holiness vs. Sin
Ripple effect of sin
Improper use of power
Controlling our passions
Avoiding occasions of sin
Obedience to God and respect of fellow man
Contrition and repentance
God’s amazing mercy
This list could go on and on. But let’s examine them in relation to our own lives, the decisions we make, and remember to keep in mind the kingdom of God. If we are not careful we may be quick to judge David and see only the horror and wickedness in him. The Word of God tells us that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So let’s use this “great” man’s experience and life to help us on our journey.
As Christians it is paramount that we become and remain mindful of our call to holiness and how sin and the decisions we make affects this call. We must be aware of the evil one and the many traps he will make and set for us in order to destroy us. Hold on dearly to the Holy Catholic Church and her teachings and the Sacraments. Know that by ourselves we cannot be holy. I will repeat, by ourselves we cannot and will not be holy! We however have who and what it takes to make us holy. Like the parable Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God, none of us has any 'magic formula' for holiness. Availing ourselves of the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation frequently and allowing God to have his way will give us a good start. In the end, it is all by God's grace.
We must be mindful of the ripple effect of one “little sin”. Usually it leads us to another and then another and the list continues. Learn from David, avoid all occasions of sin and never underestimate the effect of one venial sin. David's first little sin was not that he saw a beautiful woman, but that he dared to look and to lust. There is a difference between seeing and looking; between hearing and listening. Unless we are blind or hearing impaired, we cannot help but see and to hear, but we do not have to look nor do we have to listen. For example, someone circulates dirty jokes and pictures via email; because I am not blind I will see the email. I however do not have to look at the content of the email. Likewise when gossip is circulating the office, I may hear it but I do not have to listen to it as I can choose not to listen. When we make these choices not to look at nor listen to what displeases God, we prevent the growth of sin in us. But again please bear in mind it is all by God's grace.
What about the authority given to us at the office, at church, in government or even at home? Do we misuse the authority given us for selfish gains? David was king, so he had the power to send for the “beautiful” Uriah’s wife. Did she resist him in any way? How easy was it for her to give in? Didn’t she have the option to flee from David like Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife? (Genesis 39) Do we yield easily to sin? Is it easy for us to tell lies, while justifying our actions? Do we give in easily to being agents of gossip? What about our sexual urges, do we give in easily to them? Do we give in easily to false teaching about our Catholic faith or do we make the time and the effort to find out the truth? All of these are the 'little seeds' in us that can grow and grow if left unchecked, preventing the kingdom of God from being established in us. The word of God in James 4: 7 tells us to 'resist the devil and he will flee from you.' If we learn to control our passions, we wouldn’t commit many of the sins we do. Think of the effects of gratification of the ego, pornography and sexual immorality, addiction and our insatiable desire for power world over. Again we are not powerless orphans; we have all the graces available through the church for combat. We can start by avoiding all occasions of sin. Don’t think, oh, I can handle this, or I will be able to handle this. Remember our battle is not against flesh and blood. Hold onto Him who has authority over all we battle with.
Then there is the deception, of misleading Uriah into thinking all was well. Imagine David giving Uriah the letter with his death sentence to take back to his chief at battle. When David called Uriah from battle and invited him to his home, he sought to find out how the war was going, while neglecting to deal with the real “war” that was going on within him, mind soul and body. David’s plot failed as Uriah felt obligated to obey God out of respect for his fellow men at war. How could he come home to have “fun” while the rest of the troops were out there on the battle field? He simply couldn’t, not even in a drunken state into which he was lured.
Uriah’s wife Batsheba is now with child and knowing well that this was David’s child she chose to inform David. Did she tell Uriah her husband, or was he killed before she could do so? Quite easily we can get caught into the conspiracy web. Often this is to allow us to cover our own faults and shortcomings or to help someone to cover theirs. Scriptures tell us, 'woe to him who causes one of these little ones to stumble'. In the eyes of our heavenly father we are all little ones, and indeed we are our brother’s keeper.
Here is where the grace and the boundless mercy of God who wants so much for us to be with him in the kingdom of God comes in; God used Nathan to replay David’s life of sin before him under the disguise of another man’s life. (2 Samuel 12) Of this, David was utterly disgusted, and professed that “the man should die” who Nathan the prophet spoke of. David was chastised by Nathan who was sent by God, for the wrong he had done. It was then that David repented. One cannot help but wonder if it were not for the timely intervention of God who sent his servant Nathan to David, what would the outcome have been. Would David have repented? Many times, we only come to repentance when we have been caught in the act of sin. While many may consider it as being unfortunate what the person who was caught had done, it is actually quite fortunate for them since God is chastising them and giving them the opportunity to repent. This is the Good Shepherd going after the lost, which he does for every one of us. Very often it is easier to see the sins of others, than it is to see our own sins. That is why we must be each other’s keeper. The seed of sin must be identified and rooted out wherever it exists before it grows out of control.
David’s eyes, mind and heart are now open. He is aware of the mess he is in, thanks to the grace and mercy of God. What does he do? With a contrite heart he cries out to God, who while disliking the sin, loves the sinner with an everlasting love. David cries out from the depths of his being:
“Have mercy on me O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin….. Create in me a clean heart, O God and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51)
These are words of contrition and repentance. We too should seek this spirit of contrition and repentance when we sin. What rejoicing there is in heaven over one sinner who repents. Looking at David’s life we see again the amazing mercy of our God who reminds us constantly that his mercy is far greater that any of our sins and that we must rely not on ourselves but on his infinite mercy to experience the Kingdom of God. He warmly welcomes back all who have strayed from his fold.
"To what shall we compare the kingdom of God? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade." All we have is that 'small seed' of faith that was planted in our heart at our baptism. That's all we have. We know not how that seed was formed, let alone how it got in our hearts. We rely totally on God's grace and mercy for that seed to grow.
As we seek to be one with the kingdom of God, may we never allow pride, despair or anything else to prevent us from returning to experience the sweet mercy of God. As we experience the love and mercy of our God, may we in turn pass this on to those in our lives and especially to those who will sin against us. As this spark is lit may each of us in our daily lives, get the fire going by passing it on. Heavenly Father, as we strive to be holy as you have called us to be, please give us the grace to do all we can while we rely totally on your guidance, your mercy and your everlasting love. Amen.
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