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(Part 17)


January 22, 2016

Today’s readings:
1 Samuel 24:3-21
Psalm 57:2-11
Mark 3:13-19

Saul was hunting down David, who had fled. David had no longer any refuge in Saul’s kingdom, now finding refuge only in a cave. David was Saul’s right hand, but now that he had turned against him, who could David turn to? Only God. So David prayed, “Have mercy on me, God, have mercy on me. In you I seek refuge.” (Ps 57:2a).

Saul is like the powers-that-be in today’s kingdoms, including governments themselves, that seek to destroy what is important to us -- faith, family and life. When governments themselves become oppressive, who can we turn to? Only God. “I call to God Most High, to God who provides for me.” (Ps 57:3).

When the whole world is under the dominion of the evil one, when traditional faith and values are collapsing all around us, when we are being overwhelmed by a tsunami of evil, where can we turn to? Certainly not to worldly or secular powers. “I must lie down in the midst of lions hungry for human prey.” (Ps 57:5a). We can only look up and seek God’s mercy. “May God send help from heaven to save me, shame those who trample upon me. May God send fidelity and mercy.” (Ps 57:4).

Now we have received God’s mercy. Jesus died for us and won our salvation even when we were, and still are, sinners. What is mercy? It is withholding the punishment due to one who has transgressed. God is merciful to us. But here it is: we also need to be merciful to others. Part of that is we are told to love our enemies. What? I would rather cut them them down! But then, what if God thought the same way? He was merciful to me, I should be merciful to others.

This is what David did. Saul was relentlessly hunting him down with 3,000 men (1 Sm 24:3). Then he had to take a comfort break in a cave, where David and his men were (1 Sm 24:4). David could have killed him right there and then, and his men were in fact ready to attack Saul, but David held them back (1 Sm 24:5,7-8). He showed mercy to Saul. “I was told to kill you, but I took pity on you instead.” (1 Sm 24:11b). That is the definition of mercy.

Now grace goes with mercy. They are two sides of the same coin. They are both manifestations of love. The God who is love is rich in mercy and is gracious. Grace is giving to the other person the good that he does not deserve. How did David extend grace to Saul? He not only did not kill him, which is mercy, but he also still spoke well of and looked kindly on him. “I decided, ‘I will not raise a hand against my master, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’” (1 Sm 24:11c). That is mercy and grace together. Saul himself saw this. He said to David, “You have treated me graciously, while I have treated you badly.” (1 Sm 24:18b). Saul saw how completely against human ways that is. “For if someone comes upon an enemy, do they send them graciously on their way?” (1 Sm 24:20). Yes, if they are merciful.

See how the world will change if there is mercy? So Jesus came in the Father’s mercy and became the icon of mercy to us, as he hangs crucified. But Jesus came for all, not just for us. And so we need to extend that mercy to others. So Jesus, at the very start of his public ministry but knowing the work would have to go on after he returns to heaven, appointed his core group. “He went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach.” (Mk 3:13-14). They would accompany him, learn the ropes so to speak, and then be sent forth to do what he was doing, “to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mk 3:14b-15).

Now we too are chosen, and summoned to himself, and appointed, and anointed, and given authority, and sent forth. We too are apostles. We can be anyone, from any background, with varying capabilities – fishermen, tax collectors, insurgents, doubters, even one who eventually became a traitor. We are tasked to spread God’s mercy, by first bringing people to Christ, through the work of evangelization. We work such that the God of mercy will extend His dominion over the whole of creation. We look above to the God who is mercy: “Be exalted over the heavens, God; may your glory appear above all the earth.” (Ps 57:6). Then we look to all peoples: “I will praise you among the peoples, Lord; I will chant your praise among the nations.” (Ps 57:10). God wants them to experience His mercy.

May the world experience the salvation of God. May all nations experience the love, mercy and grace of the Lord. Let us do our share to make this happen, and truly give honor and glory to God. “For your mercy towers to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” (Ps 57:11).

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