As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they made merry, "Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Saul was very angry, for this saying displeasd him. He said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?" So Saul eyed David from that day on.
Saul spoke with his son Jonathan and with all his servants about killing David. But Saul's son Jonathan took great delight in David. Jonathan told David, "My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you." Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, "The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?" Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, "As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death." So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.
Have mercy on me, God, men crush me;
they fight me all day long and oppress me.
My foes crush me all the day long,
for many fight proudly against me. (R./)
You have kept an account of my wanderings;
you have kept a record of my tears;
(are they not written in your book?)
Then my foes will be put to flight
on the day I call to you. (R./)
This I know, that God is on my side.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not fear;
what can mortal man do to me? (R./)
I am bound by the vows I have made you.
O God, I will offer you praise
for you rescued my soul from death,
you kept my feet from stumbling
that I may walk in the presence of God
in the light of the living. (R./)
Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, "You are the Son of God!" But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
After a short reconciliation between Saul and David, and despite the enthusiasm of the crowd pressing on Jesus, peace is threatened on all sides. The brief pact between Saul and David fails to remove Saul's jealousy and irrational fear. The suspicion of the Pharisees is fanned to hatred by the crowd's enthusiasm for Jesus. As men and women of faith, our life is a pilgrimage to a destiny beyond the horizons of this world. The One who shapes our life invites us to that heaven where Jesus has gone ahead, "beyond the veil," a destiny beyond unaided human ability to reach. We may want a personal bond with Jesus and yet be embarrassed by his demands, or feel some tedium about religious practice. Similarly we experience tensions and paradox in our social relationships. While feeling truly close to our relatives and friends, might there be some jealousy or resentment still hidden in our hearts?
It is good to recognize the tensions inherent in our life and in our faith. Putting our trust in God we can accept as true what we cannot prove or see; we rely on faith that the goal of life lies beyond the present earthly existence. Tension and conflict can lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves, even to mature wisdom. The Scriptures advise us to discern carefully. Some (like King Saul) who seem strong, well-established and effective may prove to be only an illusory passing shadow. What seems to be the blind excitement of the crowd may be the sound instinct of faith. Only when we have gone to God behind the veil will we know the whole truth, even as we are known by him.
Today we see Jesus surrounded by people not just from Judea and Galilee, but from much further afield, from Idumea, Transjordania, Tyre and Sidon. This great and diverse crowd had one thing in common; they were all afflicted in some way. The gospel reading says, "all who were afflicted in any way were crowding forward to touch him." Mark earlier has Jesus describe himself as a healer who came not for the sake of the healthy but for the sick, for those broken in body, mind or spirit. We all need healing from time to time, some less often than others. Indeed we all need to go to the Lord in our imperfection all of the time.
We can see ourselves as part of that throng of humanity that made their way to Jesus in the gospel. We all need the Lord, because what we receive from him cannot be received from any merely natural source. That is why he calls us to seek him, to ask of him, to knock on his door, or in the image of today's gospel, to touch him. We keep reaching out to touch him in our imperfection because we have a need deep within us that only he can satisfy. One of the privileged ways we touch the Lord is in the Eucharist, which has been aptly described as broken bread for a broken people. [MH]