Friday, February 01, 2008

sin and grace

Today's first reading is about sin, and the Gospel is (as always!) about grace. The first reading is structured like a psychological thriller: We see the Israelite army at war. Change of scene: the roof of the Jerusalem palace, and the king strolling in the evening quiet. Something catches his eye, and we follow his gaze to another rooftop patio, on a far humbler building. And so it goes, changing scenes, letting us see the various characters who will be taken up in tragedy, above all the innocent and faithful soldier, Uriah. The pathos really builds when David, to deflect any suspicion about his own adultery with Uriah's wife, calls the soldier from the battlefield and tells him to go on home. But as a soldier in a "holy war," Uriah refuses what would put him in a state of ritual impurity. He stays in the barracks, faithful to the king and to the Lord, even though Uriah is not even a Jew! David tries again, but Uriah remains faithful: a good soldier, ready for battle at the king's behest. And it is this which will be his death.
The Gospel, on the other hand, is about the Kingdom of God, like abundant seed scattered on the ground that sprouts and grows seemingly from nothing. While praying over this Gospel this morning, watching the snowflakes pour from the sky, I remembered the words of Isaiah: "Just as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return until they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, so shall my word be.... It shall do my will and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." In the light of the first, dramatic reading of David's inhuman betrayal of Uriah, the Gospel message was "Where sin abounded, grace abounds all the more."

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