This Sunday’s liturgy is concerned with the forgiveness of injuries and like last Sunday, is made up of two elements, i.e., the reading of the history of David which is continued in the Breviary and that of a passage of one of the epistles of St. Peter the Apostle whose feast is kept about this time. In fact the week beginning with the seventh Sunday after Pentecost was called the week after the feast of the Apostles.
When David had gained his victory over Goliath the Israelites went back victorious to their towns and villages singing to the accompaniment of instruments, Saul slew his thousands and David his ten thousands.
Angered at this and with jealousy eating into his heart, Saul exclaimed: They have given David ten thousands, and to me they have given but a thousand, what can he have more than the kingdom? And Saul did not look on David with a good eye from that day forward, as if he guessed that David had been chosen by God. And jealousy turned him into a criminal. Twice while David was playing the harp to calm Saul’s fit of madness he threw his javelin at him and twice David nimbly stepped aside while the javelin stuck quivering in the wall. Then Saul sent him into the battle, hoping that he would be killed, but David returned at the head of his armies, victorious, safe and sound (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Postcommunion).
After this Saul became desperate and hunted David up and down the kingdom and one night he went into a cave, very deep and dark, in the recesses of which David happened to lie concealed. One of David’s companions told him that it was the king; that the Lord was about to deliver him from his enemy’s hand and that the moment had come to strike him dead with his spear. David, however replied that he would never lay his hand upon the Lord’s anointed, and contented himself with secretly cutting off the hem of Saul’s robe, after which he left the cave.
At sunrise, from a safe distance, he showed Saul the piece he had cut off and Saul wept and cried: My son David, thou art more just than I. Again, on another occasion, David came across Saul fast asleep at night with his spear stuck in the earth close to his pillow and did no more than take the spear and Saul’s drinking vessel with it. And Saul blessed him again, however, without slackening in his pursuit.
Later on the Philistines recommenced the war and Israel being defeated, Saul killed himself by “throwing himself on his sword.” When David learned of Saul’s decease, far from rejoicing, he rent his garments and had the Amalekite killed who brought the news while carrying Saul’s crown and claiming for himself the fictitious merit of having slain David’s enemy. David sang a dirge for Saul: Ye mountains of Gelboe, let neither dew nor rain come upon you, neither be they fields of first-fruits: for there was cast away the shield of the valiant, the shield of Saul as though he had not been anointed with oil … Saul and Jonathan, lovely and comely in their life, even in death they were not divided.
What is the reason, asks Pope St. Gregory, why David, who rewarded not evil to them that dealt treacherously with him, when Saul and Jonathan had fallen in battle, cursed the mountains of Gilboa, saying: Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be neither dew nor rain upon you, nor fields of offerings, because there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as if he had not been anointed with oil? … What fault was there then in the mountains of Gilboa when Saul died, that neither dew nor rain should fall upon them, and the sentence pronounced on them should make them barren forever?
Saul, whose anointing in no way prevented his death is a type of our Mediator in His death, and the mountains of Gelboe, whose name means watercourses, stand for the Jews with their proud hearts who dissipate themselves in a stream of worldly ambitions. The King the true anointed one, lost the life of his body among them, wherefore wholly deprived of the dew of grace they remain in a state of barrenness. These proud souls bring forth no fruit, for they remain faithless to the Redeemer’s coming, and while the Church, from the beginning, has shown herself prematurely fertile by the multitude of nations she has brought forth, it is with difficulty that in the last days she will garner some Jews, gathered like a late harvest or like fruit out of season (Second Nocturn).
From all these considerations there stands out a great lesson of charity, for as David spared his enemy Saul and rendered him good for evil, so God forgives the Jews, since in spite of their unfaithfulness, He is always ready to welcome them into the kingdom of which Christ their Victim is King. Hence we can understand the reason for the choice of today’s Epistle and Gospel, which proclaim the great duty of the forgiveness of injuries, Be ye all of one mind in prayer, not rendering evil for evil, not railing for railing, says the Epistle. And the Gospel adds: If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar and there, thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother and then coming, thou shalt offer thy gift.
David, having been anointed king by the elders of Hebron, took the citadel of Sion, which thus became his city, and put the Ark of God in the sanctuary there (Communion). This was the reward for his great charity, a virtue indispensable if the worship offered by men in the holy places is to be acceptable to God. It is for this reason that the Epistle and Gospel call our attention to the fact that it is especially when we meet in prayer that we must be unite in heart.
Certainly, as the history of Saul and today’s Mass show, divine Justice has its rights, but if it utter a final sentence, it is only after almighty God has exhausted in vain, all the means suggested by His love.
The best way to come to the possession of charity is to love God, to desire the good things of eternity (Collect), and the possession of happiness in heavenly places (Communion), where entrance is only to be had through the continual practice of this fair virtue.
From The Liturgical Year, by Dom Prosper Gueranger
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