In the course of my preparation for today’s homily, I was in conversation with some of my friends a few days ago when one of them asked, “And who is this guy called Saul that wants to kill David in today’s first reading? Is he the same Saul that was persecuting Christians and was later converted on his way to Damascus and now known as St. Paul?” I want to begin this homily by answering that question. The Saul in today’s first reading is different from the Saul who is now St. Paul. Although they were born into the tribe of Benjamin, there is an interval of about a thousand years between them. The one who became Paul is in the New Testament. The account of his conversion is in the Acts of the Apostles. He is the author of thirteen letters in the New Testament, one of which is today’s second reading.
The Saul trying to kill David in today’s first reading is in the Old Testament. He was the first King of Israel. When the time came for God to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, God raised one of them, Moses, to be their leader. Moses died before they got to the Promised Land, so Joshua became the next leader, and he eventually led them to the Promised Land. After the death of Joshua, God gave them a new set of leaders who were called Judges. The last but one of them was Eli, the priest of Shiloh, after taking over the mantle of leadership from Samson, the warrior. Samuel was a little boy serving in the Temple under Eli when God called him. Samuel became the last Judge, and he is also considered a prophet.
While Samuel was Judge, the children of Israel complained that they wanted to have their king just like other nations. Samuel reminded them that they were special people and had no need for a king since God was their king. They stood their ground. Samuel complained to God. God told Samuel that it was not Samuel they were rejecting but God. God then warned the Israelites against the disadvantages of having a King, but they stood their ground. At this point, God sent Samuel to go anoint Saul, the son of Kish, to become the first king of Israel.
After a short while, Saul lost favor before God because he would not obey God’s commands. God then sent Samuel to go to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons as the new King of Israel. Jesse brought seven of his sons, one after the other, but God did not select any of them. Samuel asked Jesse if that was all he had. Jesse answered that there was one more son but that he was still very young. Samuel asked Jesse to bring him. David was the little boy, and as soon as Samuel saw him, he recognized him as the chosen king, and Samuel anointed David. At this time, Saul was still on the throne. There was a Philistine warrior Goliath who was terrorizing the children of Israel. While everyone was afraid of him, little David fought him on behalf of Israel, and he killed Goliath with a stone. In celebration of the victory, the women began to sing, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” When Saul heard this song, he became envious of David, and he began to seek different ways to kill David. Today’s first reading is one of King Saul’s attempts to kill the little boy David. While King Saul and his warriors were deeply asleep, David and Abishai came to them, and Abishai felt it was an opportunity for David to kill Saul finally. Still, David refused to kill King Saul because Saul was the Lord’s anointed.
David did not only become a King and Jesus’ ancestor, but he was also a type of Jesus. He was a prefiguration of Jesus. David had all the power to kill Saul, but he did not use it. In the New Testament (Gospels), we encounter Jesus, who changed water to wine, gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry, and raised the dead. Yet, when the soldiers arrested him, maltreated, and killed him, just like David, he did not use his power to save himself; he did not fight back; instead, he repaid evil with good by praying for those who crucified him. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus is also challenging us who are Christians to show our superiority over the world, to rise above the standard of the world by being kind even to our enemies. Our vocation is to love even those who don’t deserve it; in this way, we will be God-like; we will be children of God, who allows his rain to fall and his sun to shine on both the good and the bad.
There are three sets of people: the first is the bad people, the second is the good people, and the third is the God-like people (the children of God). Bad people hurt those who have done nothing to them; good people love those who love them and hate those who hate them, and God-like people love those who love them and love those who hate them. As Christians, Jesus is challenging us to rise above being good. He wants us to become God-like. We can only claim to be God’s children if we are kind to all, just like God is.
Yes, the call to Christianity is the call to be like God. However, one thing is reserved only for God, and that is judgment. We must not judge because we do not have sufficient knowledge to judge. We cannot judge another person since we do not know the other person’s complete story. Jesus says, “Stop judging, and you will not be judged.” As they say, when you point one accusing finger at another person, the rest of your fingers will be pointing at you. I have a slight modification to that. When you point one accusing finger at another person, three of your fingers (middle finger, ring finger, and pinky) will be pointing at you to remind you that you are three times guilty of the same offense. And your thumb points up and falls on the three fingers to remind you that God is a witness to all. My dearly beloved in Christ, we cannot follow these words of Jesus by our strength. Therefore, let us pray to God to forgive us our sins and give us the grace to forgive those who offend us through Christ our Lord. Amen.