1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7
"O Lord, I trust in your merciful love. My heart will rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord who has been bountiful with me." Psalm 13:6 (Entrance Antiphon)
Many of us are familiar with Clare Luce Booth’s saying: "No good deed goes unpunished." Many of us want to believe that life should be fair. Many more of us become upset with God when we are not dealt with fairly in life. We cry out in pain, "Why does God do this to me!" The pain becomes even more painful when we are trying our best to be good people. We may even go out of our way to do something heroically good. Then tragedy befalls us. We lose a loved one to death, someone we love dearly becomes gravely ill, and we have a set-back on the job or even lose our job. Instead of our family becoming more united, they seem to become for divided, more alienated from one another. All these kinds of things seem to happen when we have made up our mind to be "good," to be even more faithful, more loving. It is difficult to see this as fair treatment on the part of God.
"No good deed goes unpunished." In the first reading, the young man David is called from the fields where he is watching sheep to lead an army led by Saul, the king. He defeats Goliath, and the people rush to praise him and to extol him as even a greater warrior than King Saul. Saul becomes jealous and begins to plot against him. At this point, I am sure that David is thinking, "What did I do that was so wrong, that the king now wants to kill me?" David did his best, won the war but lost the love of his king. That did not seem fair at all!
"No good deed goes unpunished." In the gospel reading, Jesus is caught up with doing good. In the preceding chapters of the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus preaches with authority, cures the mother-in-law of Simon his disciple, drives out an unclean spirit in a man inside a synagogue, cures a leper, cures a paralytic, heals a man with a withered hand and preaches the Good News to big crowds. Soon, he is followed by the Scribes and the Pharisees. They team up with the Herodias to plot against him. The last verse of yesterday’s Gospel reads: "The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death."
When we truly embrace the Person of Jesus, as Son of God, the Christ, and Son of Mary, we begin to strip aside the many assumptions which lead us down the path of earthly justice as the sign of God’s love. As God’s Love is unconditional, our love is called to be unconditional as well. That is not a truth that we learn easily. Nor can we learn it just by using our humanly resources. St. Theresa of Avila is quoted as saying to God, "If that is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them." She knew that God’s favor did not consist of the absence of trials or sufferings, but in the way we embraced them. Neither David nor Jesus allowed the immediate dangers to their person to prevent them from fully embracing their calling. We eventually come to Paul the Apostle’s insight: God’s grace is enough. Let us continue to trust in God’s merciful love.
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.