1Sm 17:32,33,37,40-51; Ps 144:1,2,9-10; Mk 3:1-6
It is the LORD who trains our hands for battle. Just as he trained our ancestor David, the LORD trains us. We bless the LORD our rock, who trains our hands for battle and our fingers for war. Our hands would be weak and limp if not for the LORD. We have battles, and there is a war. Our battle is with the evil one and we are necessarily at war with vice and sin. The LORD is our refuge we are secure. He is our fortress we have nothing to fear. The LORD is our stronghold we are safe. The LORD is our deliverer and there is no one who can defeat him. If we trust in his power to shield us then he will subdue people under us. With this kind of loving arrangement we are ready to sing a new song and play the lyre to chant his praise. It is the LORD Most High who gives victory to our leaders, and it is the LORD Most High who alone can deliver David and all his descendents from age to age. Indeed, the true son of David, the true King of Israel is the Lord Jesus and he alone delivers us from the evil sword. The young man David was rescued from the Philistine’s sword in our first reading. The Lord Jesus uses the sword of God’s word to challenge the giant institution of religion when he cries out, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” We, too, are protected from the evil sword even while we wield the sword of truth.
The first encounter between the rejected king Saul and the future king David takes place on a battlefield. As the lines between the Philistines and the Israelites have been drawn the giant Goliath is overly confident in his power to overcome the puny boy, David. Little does the Philistine know that he is facing more than a weak shepherd boy. This youth seems to be the only one who has trust in the LORD Most High. King Saul tries to discourage the boy, but David recalls the faithfulness of God. “The LORD, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear, will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine.” David’s real strength is hidden from his king and from his enemy, and this gives David the edge. David has no fear of a stampeding giant or a clueless king. David is not afraid of a sword, spear and scimitar; he has five smooth stones and boundless confidence in the LORD Most High. As he approaches the giant, David cries out, “Today the LORD shall deliver you into my hand; I will strike you down and cut off your head…thus the whole land shall learn that Israel has a God.” It is just this kind of reckless courage that attracts us to David, and provides us with a glimpse of his descendant, Jesus. In the future king David we catch a glimpse of the five wounds of the Christ that have gone on before us to rescue us from the power of evil. Still these wounds can be seen by those who share in the victory of the cross and resurrection. Now, we too have no fear of a fearful king or a fearless enemy. Indeed, we live in the bright victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we have his five wounds as our weapons.
The five wounds of the Lord Jesus is the only way that the Lord trains our hands for battle, war, struggle, and service. In today’s gospel Saint Mark relates the story of a love that is stronger than the giant’s weapons. The Son of David loves the man with the withered hand. The reckless courage of the Lord Jesus reveals that human suffering is only a part of the human condition. Suffering, oppression, misery are not the end or the purpose of our lives. We are called forward in the assembly to trust the one who called us to trust that he will heal us and save us. The Lord Jesus does not hesitate to touch and heal the man with the withered hand even though it’s a Sabbath day. Even though his compassion is offensive to his brothers in the synagogue, the Lord Jesus reveals the Father’s love for the man with a withered hand and for the Pharisees. In Christ, the Father challenges them with the question, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” They refused to answer, and this stone cold silence angered the Lord Jesus. Their lack of compassion grieved his heart, but he did not cower in fear. Like his ancestor David the Lord Jesus stood up to those with giant egos and hardened hearts. This confrontation brought together the Herodians and the Pharisees. These two rival factions had something in common now, Jesus and his destruction. Christ loves everyone who hates, and it is his wounds that heal all hatred, bitterness, and hardness of heart. Indeed the crucified and risen Lord Jesus offers himself to us as constant companion and food for the journey home to our Father in the Holy Spirit.
Ten years ago during the rally before the March for Life one of the leaders was repentant about an early hesitancy among the leaders of the pro-life movement. It seems that Catholics were hesitant to call abortion by its true name, “slaughter of the innocents”. Such hesitancy was attributed to a desire to remain in dialogue with the opposition. It had taken Catholics many generations to convince others in this country that we were loyal Americans and not “under the control of the pope”. This fear often stirred up anti-Catholicism, and the leaders of the pro-life movement did not want to arouse such fear in the early days after Roe-vs. -Wade. This kind of hesitancy is understandable, but not excusable.