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The Word, The Truth

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Homily for Friday of the 2nd Wk in Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin & Martyr, 21 Jan 2022, 1Sam 24,3-21, Mk 3:13-19

Our readings today are about leadership succession, a very timely topic to reflect on as we Filipinos prepare for the May 2020 elections.

We have two models in our readings: first, the succession from Saul to David, and second, the succession from Jesus to the twelve apostles.

In our first reading today we hear about Saul hunting down David in order to kill him, because he does not want him as successor. He would rather have his own son Jonathan in the throne after him, in order to establish his family as a political dynasty.

At the end of this long reading from 1 Sam 24, we are told that Saul finally gives in, and the circumstances are very amusing. The author tells us that Saul has gone out to the wilderness to relieve himself, meaning, to do his toilet activity. I imagine him confidently saying to his guards, “Stay there by the mouth of the cave while I relieve myself inside.” He was being guarded outside, not knowing that the one he was pursuing was right there inside. David could have easily killed him but he restrained himself. He refused to inflict harm on the Lord’s anointed.

The author makes it both comic and dramatic; David cuts a piece of the king’s cloak, which Saul probably left on a corner of the cave, very close to where David was hiding. It is after Saul is done with his toilet activity that David suddenly shows up and calls out to him and says, “My Lord, the King!” I imagine Saul getting jolted like he had seen a ghost. I also imagine David bowing to the ground and weeping as he says to the king, “Why are you doing this to me? What did I do to you to make you hate me so much when I have done nothing but serve you faithfully, like a son to his own father?”

In the earlier part of the story, we were told that David was used to dealing with Saul whenever the king behaved like he was under the spell of an evil spirit. He played him some relaxing music on the harp. This time he is doing the same thing by simply talking some sense to him.

You see, Saul has just relieved himself inside the cave. But he also needed to relieve himself of the spiritual waste that was poisoning his heart—his jealousy and insecurity. And once again, David succeeds in calming him down and helping him come to his senses. He calls David his “son” and finally accepts that this was really the man whom the Lord has anointed to succeed him.

In the Gospel, Jesus is also going to the wilderness, not to relieve himself. (Although I wouldn’t be surprised if he sometimes also went to the wilderness for that purpose.) Here he is going into a solitude of communion with his Father, precisely to ask his Father to guide him in identifying his successors, because he somehow knew that his days were numbered. He knew that what had happened to John the Baptist was bound to happen to him too—and so he made sure that his mission would be sustained even after he was gone.

Jesus is our model of the true leader. He does not build a personality cult around himself or monopolize leadership. He does not hold on to power. He shares his leadership and in effect multiplies himself in the disciples who become his apostles.

Look, it’s been almost two thousand years now since he returned to the Father and yet, his mission goes on. He did not choose superheroes for his successors but ordinary human beings like you and me. Most of them were fishermen. There was an activist among them, and there was one who became a traitor. He never gave upon anyone of them, neither on the one who had denied him nor the one who had betrayed him. He had bought them from Satan at the price of his own blood.

What did the Lord see in the twelve men he had appointed as successors? I think he saw what Saul could not see in David’s heart for a long time, not until he relieved himself of the spiritual waste that was poisoning his soul. I think he saw in each one of them a sincere desire to respond with love to his love. It was enough to give him confidence that despite their human weaknesses, they would be able to keep the mission going, until kingdom come.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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