THE EXEGETICAL TOUCH OF THE GOOD NEWS OF TODAY; TUESDAY OF 4TH WEEK IN ORDINARY PERIOD; 1ST FEBRUARY
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
The Readings (For an analytical imagination, critical evaluation and thinking)
2 Samuel 18:9-10,14,24-25,30-19:3
The grim battle in the forest of the heights east of the Jordan is skilfully abbreviated in this reading to give the outline but not the tension and the horror. The David we have grown to admire is forbidden by his troops to participate in the battle, as being too valuable a prize, and must wait on tenterhooks in the valley to hear the results. As the troops sally forth David publicly charges them to ensure the personal safety of Absalom. The brutal Joab will have none of this, and, receiving a report that Absalom is caught in a tree, unhesitatingly strikes him dead. Who then will take the news to David? An Ethiopian, black, the colour of mourning, is delegated, but a young aristocrat, a swift runner, insists on setting off by another route.
The drama then shifts to the valley where David sits waiting at the gate of the town. First one messenger, then the other, is spotted approaching. The young aristocrat arrives first with news of victory, but dare not tell of Absalom’s death. The Ethiopian blunders out with the full dread news and David takes refuge in his room, from where he can be heard crying out in paroxysms of grief. Worse is to come. The soldier Joab, pitiless as ever, soundly berates his cousin the king for caring more about Absalom than about the whole army, and forces David out to sit at the gate, facing the troops as they creep back, furtive and ashamed, "like defeated troops deserting in battle". There was no joy of victory that day.
As we have seen, the author of the Gospel of Mark likes to combine incidents to show their joint significance, often, as here, sandwiching one story between the two halves of another. In this instance the significance is surely that both recipients of Jesus’ healing love are women. Only a minority of Jesus’ miracles concern women, and the bringing together of these two, one a girl and the other an old woman, serves to stress their importance to Jesus. It is unfair to accuse the Bible of being male-dominated. A mother’s devotion is a frequent image of God’s love. There are plenty of strong women in the Old Testament, who put their menfolk to shame by their courage, enterprise and initiative: Rebecca, Tamar, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Judith, etc. Jesus’ own relationships with women seem to have been easy and even humorous. One need only think of his playful bargaining with the Syro-Phoenician over the cure of her daughter, or the jokey exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, not to mention his delicacy towards the woman taken in adultery or the sinful woman who showed her love by weeping at his feet. Paul also clearly relied in many ways in his apostolate on the ministry of women.
Jesus’ life, along with His death, grants life-changing healing. It is a healing authority that crosses boundaries, both ethnic (cf. 5:1-20) and gender ones (cf. 5:21-43). Jesus chooses not to leave people in the conditions in which He finds them. And He has the power to alter that condition. Do we? Can the Christian community alter the conditions of people’s lives? Can it, too, bring healing into troubled circumstances? Must it not also cross boundaries - whether they are related to ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, politics or any other boundaries that divide our society - and advocate life-giving meaning and change? May God grant us the courage to do so!
Our loving and providential God, You're great and Almighty. May the aura of Your presence and direction overwhelm us for a fruitful endeavours today and always.
Thank You God for hearing me, through Christ our Lord; Amen.
Rev. Fr. Affusim, Matthew-Mary Chizoba SHL (of the Holy Cross of Jesus).