Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Wednesday in the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Preparing the Ground
Readings: 2 Samuel 7:4-17; Psalm 89:4-5, 27-28, 29-30; Mark 4:1-20
Disappointments and setbacks are difficult to endure. When our plans are thwarted, when our dreams fail to come true, we are often left feeling sad and angry and confused. And, if we are religious, we may even blame God for not helping us to succeed. One will not be surprised if these might have been among the first reactions of King David when the prophet Samuel relayed to him the message that we hear in today’s first reading. Why does God not allow David to build a temple? It’s a worthwhile project, isn’t it? Why must it be Solomon who builds it and not David himself?
A story comes to mind about two children who used to walk by a large field on their way to school. They loved the field because of the green grass and the beautiful wild flowers that grew there. Sometimes, on their way home, they would even stop to play on the field. Then, one day, to their great dismay, they found that someone had dug up the field. All the grass and wildflowers that they loved so dearly had been killed. The ground was instead scarred with ugly furrows and mounds of freshly upturned earth. At this point, you can probably already predict the story’s ending. What at first appears to be a foolish, even cruel, and inexplicable act of destruction turns out to be only the first stage of a necessary process of preparation. The ground is tilled to receive the seed that will be sown. And the result is a rich harvest.
This story resonates with Jesus’ parable in the gospel. The power of the seed that is God’s word is such that, if it only falls into good soil, it is capable of bearing fruit to an unbelievable degree: even thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. But first, on its part, the soil must be receptive. Otherwise, even if the plants seem to spring up quickly, they may be too vulnerable to survive, let alone to bear fruit. Could this gospel lesson perhaps shed some light on David’s predicament (and our own)?
Whatever might have been the exact historical context behind the story, one wonders if what God is doing is precisely tilling the soil of David’s heart (and that of the people of Israel). And notice how God seems to be doing this. Through Samuel, God helps David to put his proposed project into the right perspective. In spite of the grand scale of David’s construction plans, God reminds him that God doesn’t really need a house. More than that, God invites David to remember all the marvels that God has performed thus far, for him and through him. And God also promises continued fidelity in the future, even after David is no more. In short, God reminds David who is boss. It is God who will establish a house for you. One can only imagine how humbling it must have been for David to hear this message and to have his plans apparently thwarted by God. And yet, like the farmer scoring ugly furrows into a beautiful field, perhaps God is simply doing what is necessary for preparing David and the people of Israel to receive the fullness of God’s designs.
And what of us? How receptive is the soil of our hearts? How willing are we to have our plans thwarted, to have our fields dug up in preparation for all that God desires for us?
Posted by Fr Chris at 4:31 pm