Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday in the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Children & Peacemakers

Readings: 1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7; Psalm 56:2-3, 9-10a, 10b-11, 12-13; Mark 3:7-12

In today’s gospel, we once again find Jesus doing something he has been doing earlier. He enjoins silence about himself. Especially in Mark’s gospel, Jesus regularly seems reluctant to broadcast his status as Messiah or Son of God. The exact reason for and significance of this so-called Messianic Secret continues to be an issue for scholarly debate. One possible reason to consider is the likelihood of misunderstanding. Even if people were to address Jesus by the right title, even if they were to apply to him an appropriate label, what difference would it make if they did not really understand what it all meant? Worse still, what if their understanding was less than accurate, or even warped? Isn’t it sometimes even dangerous to have the right answers but not know what they mean?

What then might it mean that Jesus is Son of God? To find the answer, at least the answer in the gospel of Mark, we’ll need to continue paying close attention to our readings each day. Even so, perhaps attention to the first reading might help us in our meditation on this very question. Here, the person of the moment must surely be Jonathan. There are several noteworthy things about him. In particular, he is the king’s son and he is also very fond of David. Jonathan is both son and friend. These two aspects of his identity put him in the best place to do what we see him doing in the reading. Jonathan intercedes with Saul on David’s behalf. And it’s also important to notice how the process is described in Jonathan’s own words: I will go out and stand beside my father in the countryside where you are, and will speak to him about you… The result? Saul has a change of heart, and the son and friend becomes a peacemaker.

As we listen to the story of Jonathan the peacemaker, do we not find ourselves reminded of the story of Jesus? He who was Son did not cling to his equality with His Father, but freely chose to stand with us in the countryside of our exile. The only difference, albeit a crucial difference, is that the one in need of a change of heart is less the Father than those to whom Jesus is sent. Jesus comes to urge us to turn again to the Father. And isn’t this what he is doing in the gospel? Isn’t this the deeper significance of all his preaching and healing and exorcizing? As Jonathan speaks with Saul about David, so does Jesus speak to us about His Father, urging us to a change of heart. Isn’t this how Jesus shows us what it means to be Son of God? To be Son is also to be friend and peacemaker.

There is perhaps one other important similarity, and difference, between the stories of Jonathan and Jesus. After their reconciliation, we are told that Jonathan brought David to Saul and David served him. Isn’t this also what Jesus does for us too? After our change of heart, Jesus ushers us into the service of His Father. The difference is that the relationship is a much closer one than that between David and Saul. For, as we are told in the Beatitudes of Matthew’s gospel: blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:10). As we enter into the Father’s service, Jesus’ identity becomes ours by adoption. We become peacemakers and friends and children of God.

What opportunities for peacemaking are there for the children of God today?

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