Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday in the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Good Grief

Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 89:20, 21-22, 27-28; Mark 2:23-28

Why, I wonder, did Samuel do what he did in the first reading today? Why did he assume so readily that Eliab, because of his lofty stature was the Lord’s anointed? The answer seems clear from a plain reading of the text. Samuel was content, at least initially, with judging from appearances. He restricted himself to seeing as man sees. While that is probably the case, perhaps we could reflect a little more deeply on the mechanics of Samuel’s initial choice and what might have prompted it. To begin with, might the description of Eliab in today’s first reading not evoke in us a memory of another biblical figure? On Saturday, didn’t we hear of how handsome was Saul and how he stood head and shoulders above the people? Isn’t it likely that Samuel chose Eliab because he saw in him another Saul? Far-fetched? Perhaps. And yet, we cannot fail to notice that the first reading begins with the Lord questioning Samuel, how long will you grieve for Saul?

Any one of us who has loved and lost will know, first hand, the importance of grief. To grieve is healthy. It allows us the time and the space to say our own personal goodbye to the person or thing to whom or to which we are attached. To grieve is to respect our own feelings for what has been lost and to honor what is now past. Whatever might have been lost – whether a person or a thing, an idea or an era – the grieving process allows us to do what God prompts Samuel to do: without forgetting our loved one, grieving helps us get over our loss and to be on our way.

But there are good and bad forms of grief. As it was for Samuel, grief is good when it helps us to move on with our lives and to engage ourselves fully in all that God wishes us to do in God’s service. On the contrary, grief becomes a problem when we get stuck, when we cling to the past such that we are not able or willing to welcome new expressions of God’s presence in our lives. Isn’t this something like the experience of the Pharisees in the gospel of today? Their desperate clinging to their own strict interpretation of the Law prevents them from recognizing and acknowledging the presence in their midst of the Law’s Fulfillment and only true Interpreter. The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.

How might the Lord be inviting us to be one our way today?

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