Saint Vincent, deacon and martyr (opt. Memorial)
David said to Saul, "Let no one's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth." David said, "The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine." So Saul said to David, "Go, and may the Lord be with you!"
Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd's bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field." But David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand."
When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David's hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.
Blessed be the Lord, my rock
who trains my arms for battle,
who prepares my hands for war. (R./)
He is my love, my fortress;
he is my stronghold, my saviour,
my shield, my place of refuge.
He brings peoples under my rule. (R./)
To you, O God, will I sing a new song;
I will play on the ten-stringed lute
to you who give kings their victory,
who set David your servant free. (R./)
Jesus went into the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward." Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Our text from Samuel describes the fight to the death between David and Goliath, and the Gospel tells of an ethical debate between the Pharisees and Jesus, about what behaviour is allowed on the Sabbath Day. He was appaled by their insistence that not even a work of healing was permitted on the Lord’s solemn day of rest. Both readings invite us to think about the rights and wrongs of disputed issues in our lives and in our world. The stronger a country or nation is, the more do its citizens need a mature view on the purpose of war and how to limit its destructive power.
David is serene about the outcome of going into single combat with the Philistine giant, Goliath. “The Lord will keep me safe from his hands!” On a broader scale, the question of whether or what can legitimise any kind of warfare is hotly debated, and the Old Testament offers no final answer, since it expresses contrary viewpoints about it. What the Gospel says, unambiguously, is that we should live our lives responsibly, with justice and compassion. This can mean speaking out against evil and injustice, and working for justice, even at personal cost to ourselves.
Jesus could have side-stepped the the Sabbath dispute, by healing the sick man in private and out of sight, but he chose to confront the issue publicly and cured the man in full view of all. In the ensuing debate he leaves them in no doubt about the deeper purpose of the Sabbath. It is above all a day for life-giving activities. He stresses the contrast between what is right (whatever enhances life), and what is wrong (whatever diminishes life). God is Lord of life, not death; of peace, not violence; of justice, not oppression.
If the homily is about David and Goliath, let’s not omit to mention that “those who take the sword shall perish by the sword” (Mt 26:52) and the Lord’s teaching that forbids his disciples from being violent, even in self-defence (Mt 5:39). These ideals make it impossible to justify militaristic adventures in order to expand a nation’s territory or to impose its ideology. Our Christian calling is not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45) and spend our lives in loving service. We must all join in Jesus’ work of serving others, even though it may bring us a share in his cross.