Thursday, January 23, 2014

An afternoon meditation: Exorcising the Green Demon

There's something about today's first reading that put me in mind of King Herod. Not that surprising, actually. In today's reading, King Saul seems like nothing more than a Bronze Age version of Herod the Great, fearing for his throne and plotting violence against the innocent who seems to threaten it. But there's a difference between the two, and not just that Saul was able to be talked out of murder.

"Anger, Envy and Fear" by George Romney;
Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. Richardson Dilworth, B.A. 1938
Saul's real problem was a double whammy of jealousy (protective of his prerogatives) and envy (displeasure at the esteem and praise given to David). David's only offense was having defeated Goliath--"not by sword or scimitar," but by the will and word of the Lord. Anointed himself, David was a servant in the King's household, and probably did not conceive of himself succeeding Saul until the King's natural death. But Saul was obsessed with him.

And then came Jonathan the Exorcist. Actually, Jonathan the son of Saul and friend of David. Next thing you know, David is back in the King's household, playing the lyre.

How did he do it? Did Jonathan just effect a natural sort of reconciliation, being--as he was--dear to both parties? There seems to be something very much more at play, and I think it could be helpful to anyone suffering the onslaughts of the capital sin of envy in its varied manifestations. Because in one way or another, envy and jealousy tend to keep their victims on a very short leash, like a dog tied to a post. The worn circle in the grass consists of thoughts, analyses, desires, fears, all bound up with me and the object of my--let's call it what it is--lust (no matter that it may not be sensual at all). That's certainly been me, it may have been you, and it sure seems to have been Saul.

What Jonathan did was introduce a completely new and unexpected element: the transcendent. Suddenly, it wasn't about Saul and David; it wasn't about the kingship. It wasn't even about a strictly human series of events. It was "the Lord who brought about a great victory for Israel." God acting on behalf of the whole people. Able to see things from a broader perspective, Saul was pulled from the whirlpool of his own self-focused preoccupation. For now, the demon was gone and Saul was free.

This tells me that there is a healing power in faith itself. Faith makes the transcendent present and effective in a situation that can be humanly unworkable.

What does this suggest about the New Evangelization?


Richard Hassing said...

Sister Anne, thank for the very nice meditation. When I saw the word "exorcising" in the title it reminded me of one of my pet peeves: people using the word "exercising" instead of "exorcising" when they are talking about demons. Demons don't need exercise, they're strong enough already. Rebuking them in the name of Jesus is much better than exercising them.
May the Peace and Joy of Jesus be with you.
Dick Hassing, Indianapolis

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Goodness, you are right! We are the ones who need "spiritual exercises"!!!!