1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51
The first reading for today’s Eucharist presents us with one of the most savored of all the stories in the Old Testament. How many times and in how many different contexts have you heard the story of David and Goliath? The confrontation between the grizzled, fearsome, Philistine warrior, Goliath, and the unscarred, inexperienced and perhaps even naïve, yet confident young David, stands as one of the most cherished of all stories in our tradition.
The context is the war between the army of the Philistines and the army of Israel led by King Saul. Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, calls out any warrior of Saul’s army that is brave enough to face him. The stakes are winner takes all. Saul, the King of Israel despairs at the challenge because he has no one of Goliath’s caliber. He faces losing the war by default.
Up steps David, inexperienced in war, untried in arms, but filled with faith in God’s protection. Saul is grateful to David for stepping up to the challenge but tries to dissuade him from going out to meet Goliath. Saul is sure David will be killed. But Saul finally agrees to let David represent Israel because there is no one else and David is unafraid and filled with trust in God.
The result of the encounter is familiar to us all. A smooth stone picked up from the riverbed, David’s sling, and a well-placed hit on the forehead of Goliath. Stunned, Goliath falls. David walks up to him, takes Goliath’s sword and decapitates him. A bloody ending it’s true, but a triumph for Israel.
It is a story that gives us hope in the face of our own trials and struggles. So often we are faced with situations in our lives that are far beyond our capabilities. We don’t know how to respond and sometimes doubt our ability even to survive. Young David’s complete trust in God gives us heart. His unimagined victory gives us courage. So, this morning we pray for trust in God who again and again has helped us to prevail in the darkest times in our lives.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of lay formation for Holy Cross Province and is stationed at Immaculate Conception Retreat in Chicago.