If you’ve been following the daily readings over the last couple of weeks, the readings from the Old Testament have immersed us into the life of the great king, David. Amidst the greatness of his name and the lore that surrounds him, the church in her wisdom does not eliminate the readings which some may find dishonorable. In fact, none of the hero’s in the Old Testament are models of perfection. They are represented with all their foibles, flaws, failings and faults. I think we all can learn a lesson from this.
First, if these significant people have such noteworthy deficiencies, then it ought to give us encouragement for God’s expectations for us are not our understanding of perfection. If God does not hold the faults of the like of David, Solomon, and Moses, then it is unreasonable that God would hold us to a higher standard. I think what makes David great in the eyes of the Lord is not the city he built, or his attempt to keep the Northern and Southern kingdoms united, but rather the texts that are also included which show his remorse, and his desire and quest to be reunited with the Joy of the Lord.
So much of Spirituality is the wrestling with being in between. We are less than the gods yet more than the beasts—yet we are somehow both. We are not everything, but we certainly are more than nothing. Again, we are somewhere in between. How does a person find meaning between the paradoxes of extremes? A spiritual path doesn’t start by blaming others. If you have ever met a person who has gotten stuck in the blaming game, how can you help them move beyond merely blaming others? I think the spiritual challenge follows three unique steps: First a person needs to see, then they need to come to an understanding and lastly, they find a place of acceptance.
Just like the Old Testament includes David’s sin, so too it includes his recompense. Today’s reading from 2 Samuel finds David in a stage of understanding and having to choose consequences. Even more profound is Psalm 51. Reading it you’ll begin to see David’s remorse, and his inability to fix the situation on his own accord. This if far different than the mind of the rugged individualist who simply says, you need to try harder or work harder. It is more about seeing one’s imperfections and inviting God’s grace to transform them. Which is the wisdom Paul receives when God suggests to Paul to trust his weakness, “My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” (2 Cor 12:9)
Dealing with imperfections, and failures is difficult. Years ago, when I was in my studies of theology, I remember a quote from a speech Francis Vincent, the MLB commissioner gave. He stated:
Baseball teaches us, or has taught most of us, how to deal with failure. We learn at a very young age that failure is the norm in baseball and precisely because we have failed, we hold in high regard those who fail less often. I also find it fascinating that baseball alone in sport, considers errors to be part of the game, part of its rigorous truth.
The frustration Jesus experiences in his hometown is their limited ability to see the mercy of God. They can’t see beyond his membership in the village of Nazareth. And this is their error. Many of us may have the same kind of thinking when we think we have to fix whatever problems and challenges are in our life. Perhaps the best spiritual practice we can partake in this day is to first acknowledge whatever breakdown, insecurity, failure, error, mistake, or mess is in our life. And without having to attempt to fix it, if we first allow God’s mercy to touch it. Remember what Paul was told, “My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.”
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the local superior of St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.