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The Word, The Truth

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Homily for Wednesday of the 2nd Wk in Ordinary Time, 19 Jan 2022, 1Sam 17, 32-33, 37, 40-51, Mk 3:1-6

There is so much that we are bound to miss out in this precious little story in our first reading about David and Goliath if we don’t put it in the context of what went on in the earlier chapter.

The young David did not really come to the battle field to fight. It was his three big brothers, Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah who were there in the frontlines, enlisted among the soldiers of the king. David was actually tending his sheep when his father Jesse called him to deliver some food for his brothers in the military camp.

Like I told you yesterday, David was not interested in power. He probably did not even know what Samuel had anointed him for, even if the Spirit had rushed upon him. He was quite happy shepherding his flock. He was also a good musician, a skillful player of the harp, and a singer. The earlier chapter told us how he was sometimes called to entertain the king, whenever Saul was in a bad mood and was acting like he was being possessed by an evil spirit. It was David’s music that calmed him down. Afterwards he always returned to his flock.

But on the day Jesse asked him to deliver food to his brothers, David heard Goliath, the Philistine leader, insulting his God and challenging any able-bodied Israelite to fight him one-on-one. All the soldiers of Israel, we are told, were gripped by fear and trembling.

I remember a nice poster caricaturing the difference between the reaction of the Israelite soldiers from that of David. The terrified soldiers said to one another, “He is so big, how can we possibly defeat this giant?” But the young David held his slingshot and a few pebbles and said, “He is so big, I cannot possibly miss.”

A big reward had been offered by the king to anyone who could defeat Goliath. But David was not interested in the reward. He presented himself because he took offense at what this arrogant Philistine had uttered against the God of Israel.

He also had no intention of fighting like a regular soldier. The storyteller tells us David could hardly move when they dressed him up with a metal armor and a helmet, with sword and scimitar. He found it so cumbersome, he took it all off. Instead, he fought in the only way he knew, like a shepherd protecting the flock from the wolves or lions.

In fact they laughed at him when he presented himself boldly to take the challenge of Goliath. His brothers even tried to send him home to go back to shepherding. When Saul asked him what his experience in fighting was, he said, “I have tended my father’s sheep for a long time now. Whenever a lion or a bear came and attacked my flock and carried off a sheep, I would go after it and fight it. I would snatch my sheep from its mouth, seize the lion or bear by its throat and kill it. I can do the same thing with this arrogant Philistine.”

Unlike David, Goliath the Philistine was armed from head to toe when he challenged Israel. And unlike the Israelite soldiers who felt intimidated by Goliath, David saw in him an easy target. He may really have said to himself, “He is so big, I cannot possibly miss.” And so with one stone, he was able to hit Goliath and make him fall on his own weight.

This is what happens to tyrants who boast of their power, those who are overconfident about their resources and their weapons, and who speak with a lot of bravado. They are taken by surprise when they are felled by an unassuming shepherd who is armed only with pebbles and a slingshot.

The Gospel writer is presenting Jesus in the same way, like a David before a Goliath. The Pharisees and the Herodians had joined forces, according to the Gospel writer, in order to put Jesus to death. They ridiculed him the way the Philistines ridiculed David. But Jesus focused on just one enemy: SATAN.

In Tagalog, we refer to the boastful and arrogant as MALAKI ANG ULO, big-headed. I think Jesus was thinking like David when he saw the emptiness of the threats that Satan was making through his cohorts, the Pharisees and Herodians. I imagine Jesus saying the same thing to himself, “HE IS SO BIG, I CANNOT POSSIBLY MISS.”

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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