Archive | 5:37 am

Laity on the Line

20 Jan

Today’s first reading at Mass, from 1 Samuel 24, provides us some important biblical insights as to how we are to treat our religious leaders. King Saul and his henchmen are hunting down David and his band of followers. Saul has fallen out of favor with the Lord and has unleashed a demonic quest to kill David. Just two chapters earlier, Saul put to death 85 priests simply because they gave comfort and assistance to David!

For his part, David has been a loyal subject. His defeat of Goliath and other military exploits, however, have only fueled Saul’s envy and malice. King Saul continues his relentless pursuit of David amidst rugged terrain.

In this scene, Saul wanders into a cave to “ease nature” (1 Sam. 24:4). David and his men, unbeknownst to Saul, happen to be hiding in another part of the cave. Here is David’s chance to bring down the wicked king who is doing everything in his power to kill him. David sneaks over to where Saul is and cuts off the end of Saul’s mantle, presumably as proof that he did have the opportunity to kill Saul if he had so chosen. But David quickly regrets doing that, and proceeds to give not only his followers, but all of us, some important lessons.

First, David refuses to harm Saul. Why? Because Saul is the “Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:7) and a father to him.

Second, David restrains his men and won’t permit them to harm Saul. This was a matter of principle, not tactics. And this loyalty isn’t merely a ploy to gain others’ esteem. When David later hears of Saul’s demise, he rends his garments, mourns, weeps, and fasts for his fallen king, and he even puts to death the young Amelekite man who gave the final death blow to Saul because he “desecrated the Lord’s anointed” (2 Sam 1:14-16).

Third, David addresses King Saul in a manner that reflects the respect owed to “the Lord’s anointed.” He calls him “my lord the king” (1 Sam. 24:9) and later as his father (1 Sam. 24:11). When he gets Saul’s attention, he bows with his face to the earth and shows him reverence. Saul’s manifest unworthiness does not deter David from showing honor to his lawful king.

Fourth, David speaks directly to the king, stating his case clearly and courageously. He is able to point to his impeccable record of loyalty to Saul as he implores him not to listen to those who seek his life. In the end, he places his trust in the Lord to judge the matter rightly, but reiterates that he will not raise his hand against Saul.

David’s words pierce Saul, who calls David his son and acknowledges that David is more righteous than he. Saul’s repentance is short-lived, and shortly thereafter he dies at the hands of the Philistines. David becomes the great king, from whose line would come the Savior of the world. Continue reading