Thursday, January 30, 2014

Struck Down Dead

Memorial of Saint John Bosco, Priest

By Melanie Rigney

(David’s letter directed Joab): “Place Uriah up front, where the fighting is fierce. Then pull back and leave him to be struck down dead.” So while Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew the defenders were strong. When the men of the city made a sortie against Joab, some officers of David’s army fell, and among them Uriah the Hittite died. (2 Samuel 11:15-17)
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. (Psalm 51:3-4)
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? 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. (Mark 4:30-32)

Lord, give me the wisdom to know when to beg forgiveness not only from You but from those I have injured… and when the better course is to avoid wounding even further those I have offended.

When it came to the Monkees (a ’60s TV show and sort of band), I was a Micky girl. When it comes to the Rolling Stones, I’m a Keith girl, through and through. And, when it comes to the Old Testament, I’m a total David girl. When I went to my first reconciliation in 30-plus years, Psalm 51 was provided for guidance in the evening’s program. It was the first time I’d ever read it. It spoke to me like no other written word ever had. Like David, I had lived and sinned large. I yearned for some of that confidence of his that if I went to God with a truly contrite heart, I could be forgiven, that no matter what I had done, God still loved me.

It was painful, therefore, as I prayed over today’s readings to put myself in the place not of my friend David but in the place of his friend Uriah. David was ashamed of the truth, of his dalliance with Bathsheba and the resulting pregnancy, and was too ashamed to give the truth to Uriah. Who knows? Perhaps Uriah would have called out David. Perhaps he would have forgiven both of them and accepted the child as his own. Or perhaps he would have stepped away from his marriage so David and Bathsheba could be together. David was too frightened or too ashamed or too arrogant to find out. And so he sent his friend, a good man, to death. For the first time, the incident left me feeling a little sour, rather than uplifted by the words of Psalm 51 penned after David realizes the enormity of what he has done. We don’t know if Uriah had parents or siblings or other friends and family members to whom David went after the fact to beg forgiveness.

I thought about people I have wounded, not to the point of death but still wounded, in the years since I first read Psalm 51. I was reminded that while our relationship with God is the most important one we’ll ever have, we don’t get a pass when it comes to the way we treat others. When we break that second greatest commandment, to love others as we love ourselves, the ripple effects can be huge. And I resolved that going forward, when I think of the beauty of Psalm 51, I will keep in mind the carnage behind it, and strive to leave less debris in the wake of my time here on earth.

Write a letter asking for forgiveness from someone you have injured. Mail it if appropriate. Offer up your weekend Mass prayers for this person.

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