A Heart Contrite and Humble

David, son of Jesse – the one who became King of Judah and Israel – anointed as a young lad, the one who defeated Goliath, the one who established Jerusalem as the holy city and brought the Ark of the Covenant to reside. King David of whom the Books of Kings and Chronicles hold up as favored of God, as the high-water mark of all the kings – it is his voice who cries out to the Lord. “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn” (Ps 51:19) Such is the refrain from the Responsorial Psalm from today’s readings.

The psalm begins “A psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone to Bathsheba.” It describes a scene from 2 Sam 11:1 thru 12:14 in which King David was sleeping with another man’s wife (Bathsheba), impregnated her, and arranged her husband Uriah’s murder. The confessional prayer of this Psalm is deeply personal for David, but its instructional elements provide a framework for how we are to have a heart contrite and humble. The Psalm is best read as a whole taking all 19 verses into context. As you read through the Psalm, you will find a few key elements that explain what it means to have a contrite heart.

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Building Dreams

King David – living the dream! I mean who could have imagined?  The Lord God had sent his prophet Samuel out to anoint the one who would be king – and the young shepherd David was selected among all of Jesse’s sons – the one to be king of all God’s chosen people.  And the Lord had been with David on the battlefield as he stood before the giant warrior Goliath.  The Lord had stayed with David when he was a wanted man on the run from the murderous hand of King Saul. The Lord had guided David as be took on the mantle of leadership and had united the 12 tribes of Jacob into one nation. And now David was king. Continue reading

The Sins of Leaders

Today’s first reading comes from 2 Sam 24 in which the popular understanding is that God punishes the people because of David’s action of taking a census. There is no specific restriction on taking a census in the Old Testaments (although some might argue Exodus 30:12 restricts is to God’s initiative). But then again, does God punish because of David’s action? Note that the Lord’s anger is directed to the people…again. The opening of 2 Sam 24 reads: “The LORD’s anger against Israel flared again, and he* incited David against them: ‘Go, take a census of Israel and Judah.‘” (2 Sam 24:1) In the Hebrew there actually no subject that does the inciting.

So, whoever or whatever is the cause, the phrase “incited David” is interesting. A parallel verse (1 Chronicles 21:1) reads “A satan rose up against Israel, and he incited David to take a census of Israel.” Satan, in Hebrew, means “adversary,” or, especially in a court of law, “accuser.” In later Judaism (cf. Wis 2:24) and in the New Testament, satan, or the “devil” (from diablos, the Greek translation of the Hebrew word), designates an evil spirit who tempts people to do wrong. Continue reading

Living the Dream

King David – living the dream! I mean who could have imagined?  The Lord God had sent his prophet Samuel out to anoint the one who would be king – and the young shepherd David was selected among all of Jesse’s sons – the one to be king of Israel and all of God’s chosen people.  And the Lord had been with David on the battlefield as he stood before the giant warrior Goliath.  The Lord had stayed with David when he was a wanted man on the run from the murderous hand of King Saul. The Lord had guided David as be took on the mantle of leadership and had united the 12 tribes of Jacob into one nation. And now David was king. Continue reading