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(Part 60)


January 16, 2014

Today’s readings:
1 Samuel 4:1-11
Psalm 44:10-26
Mark 1:40-45

To evangelize is to engage in spiritual warfare. Since our enemy is the devil, our power and victory come from God. If we obey and do what God wills, then we will be victorious, as God is already victorious over Satan.

When the Israelites entered the promised land, after being formed for 40 years in the desert, they defeated and despoiled their enemies and took possession of the land. Joshua had victory after victory. After Joshua, Israel was led by judges (not magistrates but military leaders). One such was Eli. In today’s reading, the Israelites are defeated by the Philistines twice, one with 4,000 dead (1 Sm 4:2) and the other with 30,000 dead (1 Sm 4:10). Why?

The reason was because of infidelity. Eli’s two sons, who led the army in the second battle, had been dishonoring the Lord with their abuse of the people, including promiscuous behavior. Eli failed to reprove them. So because of crimes against the Lord and His people at the very top, Israel lost God’s protective mantle.

We too suffer defeats in the spiritual war we are engaged in. We are not successful in inviting people to attend our CLSs, we have a small harvest in our CLSs, brethren leave the community, brethren sin, brethren fight among each other, we lack money, brethren do not want to step up to services or leadership, and so on. For those of us who pray, we may plaintively ask, “Why has the Lord permitted us to be defeated today (1 Sm 4:3b)? One major reason is simply sin in the body, including infidelity to covenant.

But sometimes God allows “defeat” even when it is not due to sin. In today’s psalm, the Israelites could not understand why they were being defeated, when they were faithful to their covenant. “But now you have rejected and disgraced us; you do not march out with our armies. You make us retreat before the foe .... though we have not forgotten you, nor been disloyal to your covenant.” (Ps 44:10-11a,18b).

There are two reasons for this. One, though we may be faithful, God may want to show us another path. So we cannot overcome the obstacle that God has placed on our path, so that we will be forced to consider another route. So God does not give us the victory, otherwise we will just continue along the same path. Two, God wants to form us, purify us and hone us through suffering. While even the victorious suffer in war, it might not be deep or extensive enough for God’s purposes. We might even become proud in our victories. So God allows defeats. “For you we are slain all the day long, considered only as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Ps 44:23). But we know that the sacrifice on the cross of the pure Lamb of God was salvific. It was defeat that gave rise to total victory over the enemy. God always has a good purpose.

The Israelites could not understand. So they complained to God. “Awake! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Rise up! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face; why forget our pain and misery?” (Ps 44:24-25). The truth is God is always awake and mindful of our situation, He does not reject those who accept Him and live His ways, He does not hide His face but rather communicates and enters into a deep personal relationship with us, and He never forgets our pain and misery and in fact himself suffered pain and misery for our sakes.

We can trust in our God, and we can look to victory against the enemy. In fact, the demons cringe and cower at the name of Jesus. They are like the Philistines whom the Israelites faced. “On learning that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were frightened, crying out, ‘.... Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?’” (1 Sm 4:6b-7a,8a). Unfortunately, even with the ark of the covenant but due to their infidelity to the covenant (quite ironic), the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines. We too go forth in the name of Jesus, carrying the name of Christ as CFC-FFL, but we suffer defeats. You know why.

What then must we do? We learn from the leper in today’s gospel. First, we must go to Jesus and desire for him to cleanse us. “A leper came to him (and kneeling down) begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’” (Mk 1:40). We must give him the reverence and awe and respect due him as Savior, Lord and Master, kneeling down humbly before him in worship and submission. We must desire greatly to be made pure, imploring him for his grace. We must trust in his great desire to restore us in God’s image and likeness, to be another Christ.

Second, we must be faithful to our covenant in community. Jesus told the leper to show himself to the priest. This was for him to be restored to the community of Israel. We too have strayed, we too have been unfaithful to our promises, we too have left the protective embrace of God through His body, we too have been ravaged by leprous sin. We must return and embrace our community life, mission and covenant fully.

Third, knowing we are in an evangelistic and missionary community, we must participate in this work of proclaiming the gospel. Jesus told the leper to tell no one anything, but he instead “began to publicize the whole matter.” (Mk 1:45a). He could not help himself. He was thankful, he was overjoyed, he was zealous to share his story. How about us? We have been told by Jesus to go and proclaim the gospel. Do we? With joy? With enthusiasm and zeal?

The leper “spread the report abroad” (Mk 1:45b). We are to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. What the leper did made it “impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.” (Mk 1:45c). What we will do should make it possible for Jesus to enter every town, every heart, every home, every nation. Jesus “remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.” (Mk 1:45d). We bring Jesus to the deserts of the world, and we pray that all peoples and nations will respond and keep going to him from everywhere.

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