Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Saul discussed his intention of killing David with his son Jonathan and with all his servants. But Saul’s son Jonathan, who was very fond of David, told him: “My father Saul is trying to kill you. Therefore, please be on your guard tomorrow morning; get out of sight and remain in hiding." 1 Samuel 19:1-2

The first reading for today's Mass from 1 Samuel (
here for reference) deals with two themes which are complete opposites of one another. The first involves King Saul. Saul and David have returned to Israel after David slayed the Philistine, Goliath. Upon their return, the women of Israel are rejoicing over the victory over the Philistines and sing a song “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7) Upon hearing this, Saul becomes intensely jealous of David, after all, it is Saul who is King of Israel, he should receive the greater glory. His jealousy is so intense that he plans to kill David. This jealousy is a result of turning inward and serving the self. It is the opposite of Charity.

Now, there are those who are quick to point out that even the Holy Scriptures describe God as "jealous" in the first commandment:
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments. - Exodus 20:5b-6
Unfortunately, human beings must use words to (inadequately) describe God, and in light of this understanding, we must realize that God is not "jealous" in the sense that human beings are. When we are jealous, we desire someone else's advantages. Well, everything that is is God's, so there is nothing more advantageous than that. Baal and Astarte are not. Money is not. Nothing is more advantageous. But God wants us to realize that there is nothing more advantageous because God knows and wants what is best for us, so he demands total fidelity, not because he needs it, but because we do. Fidelity to God results in true freedom. Infidelity to God results in slavery to what we put in God's place and the resulting punishment for rejecting God. So even God's "jealousy" serves the purpose of bettering humanity through charity. This brings us to point two.

Jonathan is the son of Saul, to whom Saul has revealed his plan to kill David. Jonathan is very fond of David, so he risks his relationship with Saul to inform David of Saul's plan. Now, keep in mind that Saul is King of Israel, so Jonathan stands to gain quite a bit by supporting his father. However, for love of David, who has been anointed by God, Jonathan tells David about Saul's plan to kill him. Jonathan even risks his position as heir to the throne to assure that David is being fairly and justly treated. This is an image of the theological virtue of charity in that Jonathan sacrifices his own good for the benefit of David. It is a characteristic of the inner life of the Holy Trinity which is imaged by human beings willing to give of themselves for the benefit of another.

So in the two characters of Saul and Jonathan are revealed two images of man. That of Adam, prideful and intensely jealous of God's supreme rule over the universe to the point of rebellion which led to death, and that of Christ, the new Adam, who emptied himself in submission to God's will, giving even his own life for the benefit of all humanity which leads to life. In Christ, God reveals his true nature, that of giving all for all. God reveals in Christ that he indeed is love.


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