|a freezing rain last winter|
at Mount Saint Francis
Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people,
and said to the LORD:
“I have sinned grievously in what I have done.
But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant,
for I have been very foolish.”
Perhaps a biblical scholar could explain to me why David's taking a census of his realm offended God. Apparently he felt the lack of God's Spirit in the project. Perhaps because it failed he knew it was "very foolish."
Since I cannot consult with a scholar at the moment -- and when I meet one I'll probably forget to ask -- I'll make a supposition: David was acting like a ruler, as if he owned and controlled the people. He was counting souls as a miser counts money. He forgot that God is the only king of his people. And that's a sin.
David and Joab and the leaders of his army applied the tools of mathematics and some primitive statistics to human beings. He calculated, "There are so many men and women, so many old and young, able and disabled, educated and illiterate, landowners and aliens, orphans and widows." They may have counted the villages and towns, the houses and barns and arable land. Then, with that "data", they calculated how much tax he could levy on God's people.
Daily we read in the newspapers of so many people killed by this terrorist attack or that natural catastrophe. But can you count human beings?
How do you tabulate a commodity of infinite worth, someone for whom the Lord God of Heaven and Earth gave his Only Son?
It's been said that every drop of water in the United States is measured before it reaches the sea. Apparently, it is also true that marketeers sell information about everything I say or do or accomplish. The phone calls I make, the speed of my car, my channel surfing and internet hits, my social media friends: they're tabulated, scored and sold for money. Insurance companies negotiate with hospitals for patients. What exactly are they buying or selling?
Am I an individual, a commodity. isolated in my own skin, predestined by my history and biology to live as I do? Can merchants buy and sell me for their own gain, like a soldier sent to certain death for a greater cause?
Are my interests, health issues, experience, energies and talents only commodities in this flattened world? I wonder how much is my Catholic faith worth to them who exploit sacred symbols to sell their stuff.
Or am I a person known and loved by those God has given me in my family, neighborhood, church and office?
Confronted by a world that would commodify even my Christian faith as King David took the census of his nation. I search for my soul in the communion of the saints.