This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
BRADLEY MANNING: GUILTY OF OUTING MURDERERS
2 Samuel 3:22-39
New English Translation (NET)
Abner Is Killed
22 Now David’s soldiers and Joab were coming back from a raid, bringing a great deal of plunder with them. Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, for David had sent him away and he had left in peace. 23 When Joab and all the army that was with him arrived, Joab was told: “Abner the son of Ner came to the king; he sent him away, and he left in peace!”
24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Abner has come to you! Why would you send him away? Now he’s gone on his way! 25 You know Abner the son of Ner! Surely he came here to spy on you and to determine when you leave and when you return and to discover everything that you are doing!”
26 Then Joab left David and sent messengers after Abner. They brought him back from the well of Sirah. (But David was not aware of it.) 27 When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gate as if to speak privately with him. Joab then stabbed him in the abdomen and killed him, avenging the shed blood of his brother Asahel.
28 When David later heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord of the shed blood of Abner son of Ner! 29 May his blood whirl over the head of Joab and the entire house of his father! May the males of Joab’s house never cease to have someone with a running sore or a skin disease or one who works at the spindle or one who falls by the sword or one who lacks food!”
30 So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner, because he had killed their brother Asahel in Gibeon during the battle.
31 David instructed Joab and all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes! Put on sackcloth! Lament before Abner!” Now King David followed behind the funeral bier. 32 So they buried Abner in Hebron. The king cried loudly over Abner’s grave and all the people wept too. 33 The king chanted the following lament for Abner:
“Should Abner have died like a fool?
34 Your hands were not bound,
and your feet were not put into irons.
You fell the way one falls before criminals.”
All the people wept over him again. 35 Then all the people came and encouraged David to eat food while it was still day. But David took an oath saying, “God will punish me severely if I taste bread or anything whatsoever before the sun sets!”
36 All the people noticed this and it pleased them. In fact, everything the king did pleased all the people. 37 All the people and all Israel realized on that day that the killing of Abner son of Ner was not done at the king’s instigation.
38 Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not realize that a great leader has fallen this day in Israel? 39 Today I am weak, even though I am anointed as king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too much for me to bear! May the Lord punish appropriately the one who has done this evil thing!”
New English Translation (NET)
47 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea and he was alone on the land. 48 He saw them straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. As the night was ending, he came to them walking on the sea, for he wanted to pass by them. 49 When they saw him walking on the water they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them: “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 Then he went up with them into the boat, and the wind ceased. They were completely astonished, 52 because they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
Healing the Sick
53 After they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As they got out of the boat, people immediately recognized Jesus. 55 They ran through that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever he was rumored to be. 56 And wherever he would go—into villages, towns, or countryside—they would place the sick in the marketplaces, and would ask him if they could just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
Joab and Abishai are the kind of thugs that accompany a successful gangster become king. They have got used to the kinds of behaviour appropriate enough in the dog-eat-dog world of the outlaw but cannot adapt to the more public world of politics, and more particularly to David’s desire to be a true king under God. David is to some degree dependent on them, occasionally he uses them, often they use him. In this episode they fear that the warrior Abner will, if he comes over to David’s side, make them redundant; also, he had killed their brother Asahel in battle. So they kill him when he is off guard.
David’s response is interesting; he doesn’t do the one thing that would prove his sincere disgust at what has happened. He doesn’t dismiss the brothers from his retinue. Rather he curses them and mourns publicly for their victim. This is enough to convince the citizens of Israel, but David admits his weakness to his courtiers. The reader can note the ambiguity of David’s position while also noting that his own sense of vocation is beginning to separate him from some of his own supporters.
Mark also notes that Jesus’ vocation as God’s Son separates him from his close followers, the disciples. They do not understand the divine
generosity that enabled him to feed 5000 people, nor the divine fearlessness which enabled him to walk on the forces of chaos so terrifying to the disciples in their boat. These same qualities will take Jesus to his cross, which the disciples will also not understand, because they think that divine power should serve its own glory and the glory of its supporters. They do not understand his calling as the shepherd king of his people, any more than Joab and Abishai understand David.
I think that Pope Francis has a true sense of vocation and wants to be a true shepherd to the Christian church. But will he be able to distance himself from the people who have made him Pope? Can he say and do things that will silence the attack dogs of the Vatican and the Curia or scandalise the conservative faithful? His commitment to the poor seems genuine but needs to be proven in the disciplined use of church resources for the care of the poor and in disciplined opposition to policies that impoverish the vulnerable. His words to the press about gay people proclaimed in one breath his refusal to judge them, while in the next breath he attacked their demands for equality. Similarly he promised that women would have access to posts of power in the church while denying them the right to be priests.
It is one thing to accept the calling of true shepherd; another to detach yourself from supporters who may sometimes imagine they called you.