Our first reading today, from the Second Book of Samuel, opens with David relishing his victory in his battle with the Amalekites. No doubt he was feeling deep satisfaction and gratitude for his success and beginning to speculate about his immediate future. But, as he begins to celebrate his great success, a battered and bloodied soldier comes in and tells him that King Saul and his son, Jonathan, have been killed in their recent battle. What a blow! Jonathan was David’s closest friend and ally. It was Jonathan who had intervened on David’s behalf when Saul grew suspicious of David’s intentions. It was Jonathan who had managed to heal the damaged relationship between David and Saul. And while David truly mourned King Saul’s death, he was devastated by the loss of his oldest and closest friend. The remainder of the reading is David’s mournful yet beautiful lament for the fallen soldiers of Israel as well as for his two cherished friends.
Our Gospel reading for today presents a parallel painful experience in the life of Jesus. Jesus has been travelling to various parts of Israel, preaching, teaching, healing the sick and disabled, casting out demons, even giving life back to those who have died. As you can imagine his notoriety and fame soon became the talk of the whole region. Everyone wanted to get a chance to see him.
At the same time as his reputation grew, the skepticism and animosity of those who were threatened by Jesus, grew to dangerous proportions. The Pharisees and other religious and secular leaders even began to plot his death.
No doubt the family of Jesus heard the deadly rumblings in the air and grew fearful for Jesus. So, Mark tells us that in ignoring the animosity of the powerful members of Israel, the family began to think that Jesus was “out of his mind.” They come to take him home where he will be safe. Jesus doesn’t react well to their efforts and resists. There’s no way he didn’t feel betrayed by his family.
And that’s where these two readings come together. In the midst of triumph and success both David and Jesus experience great loss and disappointment. Both experienced the pain of the loss of people they loved and counted on. And, both needed to move forward in spite of the hurt.
Lord, help us to have the courage and resilience to always move forward with confidence in your presence with us, especially in times of loss and disappointment.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of retreats at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.