1 Samuel 16:1-13; Mark 2:23-28
Today's readings present two of my favorite Biblical accounts. The first is the choosing of David as king. The Gospel account is that of Jesus being confronted by a Pharisee because His disciples were violating the Sabbath by picking grain.
At first glance the two readings might seem to have nothing to do with each other, but in fact I believe that they are closely related. The key passage in the first reading is one that has always been a little frightening to me. God says to Samuel: "Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance, but the LORD looks into the heart." I find this a bit unsettling, because — as with, I believe, all humans — there is plenty in my heart that I don't want anybody to see. There lie all of my weaknesses, temptations, unfulfilled desires and unholy thoughts.
Paolo Veronese, Wedding in Cana, ca 1570
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
"So they filled them up to the brim."
Jesus not only provides the best of wines (the greatest of joys), his own joy is also filled completely to the brim. To the point where the vessels could not hold one more drop!
This finest of wines, this greatest of joys, it is not meant for us individually. It was not given so that the wedding couple could open up a wine cellar and drink themselves silly for the rest of their married lives. This finest of wines, this greatest of joys, is meant to be shared by all. It is meant to overflow into the lives of everyone present.
Jesus has just healed (physically and spiritually) the paralytic man. Now, Jesus takes time out of his teaching to say to Levi, a tax collector who is working at the time, “follow me.” Mark then presents the scene of Jesus at Levi’s house at table with him and many other “tax collectors and sinners.” As usual, the sight of Jesus in this situation upsets the Pharisees, which leads to Jesus saying, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
The reading from the Gospel of Saint Mark reminds me of what often happens in our Church:
- As Jesus’ followers gathered around him, we are regularly coming together to listen to his word in our religious services, to having communion with him, and to be strengthened by the fellowship of believers.
- As Jesus’ followers focused on Christ, we too are attentive to his word.
- As Jesus’ followers did not see the paralytic men who wanted to be close to Jesus, we often also overlook the human suffering around us, which is in need of Christ’s healing touch.
Harden not your hearts!
I found this image on Google. A heart encased in stone being set free. What was the remedy?
Imagine… a human heart encased in stone is a dead heart. Yes, hearts of stone are those who let hate encase their hearts of flesh. Hearts of stone are those who let evil triumph within themselves, exhibiting behaviors that choose death, not life; bigotry, not acceptance and equality; war, not peace. The heart of our world seems to suffer from so many hardened hearts where evil seemingly wins.
We read in Mark’s gospel today of the activities of Jesus; these early verses of Mark are a kind of summary of what Jesus committed himself to throughout his public life: healing of people’s ills. Healing, preaching God’s Kingdom, and simply being the attractive person he was, by drawing wide interest among “the crowds” and especially among his special friends, the disciples. “he cured many who were sick. . . and he drove out many demons not permitting them to speak. . .”
Jesus speaks here at the beginning of His career with striking authority, not through a repetition, a simple commentary, or a refinement of the text but as a prophet, one speaking directly the words of God Himself. He knows the text that He is opening for His community perfectly well, since He is permeated with the words of the Old Testament and filled with the Holy Spirit, just like His mother: it will become apparent later in His life that He is not only a special vessel of God's word, He is God's Word. At this early point, though, His mastery of the written word and the oral delivery of it sets Him up for a special role in salvation history.