Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 93

So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven
because she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Today’s first reading recalls David’s murder of Uriah and his taking Uriah’s widow Bathsheba for his queen and wife. Since coming to the VA hospital I have begun to appreciate another dimension of David’s crime. Beyond his adultery and murder he sabotaged every principle of military discipline and morale. This warrior-king knows how fighters rely on each other for strength and support as they go into battle. Their loyalty and devotion to one another is more intense than a man’s passion for his wife. They don’t desert a buddy, but he had secretly commanded that Uriah be placed in the killing zone and abandoned as his mates suddenly retreated.  
Everyone in Uriah’s unit must have known the direct assault on the Rabbah’s massive walls was extremely dangerous. Old women could lob stones from its parapets to defend the city. Afterward, when the rumor came back that the King had taken Bathsheba for his wife the warriors must have smelled a rat. David’s sin was far worse than adultery; it was a betrayal of his own fighters. 

The ideal warrior of the ancient world, Achilles, preferred to die with honor on a battlefield to fading into old age with its whimpering helplessness and sniveling neediness. In contrast, the effeminate Paris, who had started the Trojan War for the love of a woman, fled from combat to hide in his lover’s arms. King David’s sin was more craven as he intentionally handed over one of his own soldiers to get at the man’s wife.  
He could hardly be surprised when Nathan pronounced a curse upon his house:

Why have you spurned the Lord and done evil in his sight?
You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword;
you took his wife as your own,
and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites.
Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house,
because you have despised me
and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’
When David repented Nathan assured him of God's forgiveness; but, nevertheless, "the sword shall never depart from your house." If God forgave, David still had to face the consequences of betraying his warrior and his army; and that curse would rest upon his descendents forever. Not many years later David's son Absalom would raise an army and drive his father out of Jerusalem, before David's army struck back, killing Absalom and his men.

Perhaps Nathan's curse abides among Christians to this day, in our assumption that God always forgives and we need not atone for what we do to each other.

Today’s readings from Second Kings and the Gospel of Luke invite us to contemplate the enormous dimensions of our guilt. We cannot begin to appreciate God’s mercy, especially as we see it in Jesus’ passion and death, if we have not pondered on our sins.


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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

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