23 JANUARY, 2018, Tuesday, 3rd Week, Ordinary Time


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 SM 6:12-15. 17-19; MK 3:31-35 ]

Upon assuming the kingship, King David wanted God to bless him and his kingdom.  David knew that without God’s divine protection and blessings, he would not be able to be King and certainly not able to rule the country well.  So when he was made king over all Israel and Judah, he also made Jerusalem the capital of the united kingdom.  (cf 2 Sm 5)  Next, he decided to bring the Ark of God from the house of Abin′adab which was on the hill.  Having the Ark of God with him was the way in which King David could feel the Lord’s blessings and divine protection.  (cf 2 Sm 6:1-5)  After all, since the day of Moses, we read that whenever the Ark of the Covenant was with them, they won all the battles.

However, David forgot that the Ark of the Covenant should not be regarded as if it were a charm or an object that could be manipulated for his use.  The blessings that came from the Ark presupposed that they welcomed the Ark not just physically but spiritually.  We read that because they did not live holy lives, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.”  (1 Sm 3:1)  Indeed, when the priests did not live according to the Word of God, the Ark of the Covenant failed to perform its magic and was captured by their enemies, the Philistines.   “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”  (1 Sm 4:22)

Obedience to the Word of God is the pre-requisite for the Lord to enter into our hearts and our lives.  This was the painful lesson that David learnt when he sought to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the City of David.  According to the book of Numbers, the instruction for carrying the Ark of the Covenant was to have poles on the shoulders of four Levites.  (cf Num 4:5-15).  No one was to touch the Ark because it was holy.  It was an offence that would incur death.  David did not observe the commandments of the Lord. Instead, following the Philistines, he placed the Ark on a cart.  (1 Sm 6:7)  When the oxen carrying the Ark stumbled, Uzzah “put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there because he put forth his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God.”  (2 Sm 6:6f)

This call to obedience to the Word of God is a good reminder to us as well.  We can be enthusiastic in our devotions to God. We can sing hymns and praises like David did. “And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.”  (2 Sm 6:5)  But God values obedience more than sacrifice.  He forgot that God rejected his predecessor, Saul, because of disobedience.  Did not Samuel reprimanded Saul saying, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”  (1 Sm 15:22f)

Welcoming the Lord with our heart by listening to His Word is a necessary condition for the Lord to enter our lives.  If we want the Lord to bless us and live in us, it is not enough to receive communion daily or to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or rosary and all our devotions with our lips.  What we need to do is to receive the Lord into our hearts by living a life of obedience to His Word.  Then the Lord will dwell in us.  But if we receive Holy Communion and the other sacraments without serious spiritual preparation and a humble and contrite heart, such negligence on our part will not help us to strengthen our relationship with the Lord.  It will just be a ritualistic and superstitious practice without any real change in our lives.

David learnt his lesson.  He repented of his sin and negligence in handling the Ark previously.  So he waited for the opportune time to bring the Ark back to the capital.  The waiting period gave him time to consider how the Ark could be carried with the poles on the shoulders of four persons according to the prescription of the Laws.  When he heard that the house of Obed-edom was blessed when the Ark was kept there temporarily, he took it as a sign that God was ready to bless him.  “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” .  (2 Sm 6:12)  So “David went and brought the ark of God up from Obed-edom’s house to the Citadel of David with great rejoicing. When the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fat sheep.  And David danced whirling round before the Lord with all his might, wearing a linen loincloth round him.”  He also offered sacrifices and his house and the people were blessed.

Indeed, in the gospel, Jesus said the same thing to His disciples.  He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’’  It must be noted that these words were addressed to “those sitting in a circle about him.”  In other words, only those who do the will of God are considered to be within the circle of His family.  Those that are outside of the family are those who do not do the will of God.  Those who are outside this circle have no faith in Jesus because they have no relationship with Him.  It is like those who come for our services but stand outside the door or at the threshold, unbelieving. Even if not physically outside, their hearts are far from any real worship of God.  They are merely observers and of course are untouched or unmoved by the Word of God or the service they attend.

What is underscored therefore is not our physical or biological relationship with the Lord but a spiritual relationship.   In the understanding of Jesus, whoever does the will of God is His brother, sister and mother.  We are in communion with the Lord when we share His mind and His will.   Mary is truly the mother of our Lord not because she conceived Jesus in her womb but because she conceived Jesus in her mind and in her heart.  When a woman in the crowd said,  “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” (Lk 11;27), Jesus replied,  “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk 11:28)  Mary conceived the Word of God in her heart and thus the conception of Jesus in the flesh is a corollary.   Only when we hear the Word of God and keep it in our hearts, can we put the Word of God into action.

We are included in His family if we are disciples of Jesus, doing the will of God.  Mary believed in God and followed Jesus in doing the will of the Father.  She was more blessed to be His disciple than to be His mother.  The joy of Mary and her happiness lay in the fact that she obeyed God’s will and found peace.  So too, for us, it is not whether we are the mother of Christ, or physically or nominally baptized as Christians, but rather, whether we walk the path of discipleship.  This is what will give us salvation, not whether we are baptized or not.  We can be merely baptized pagans when we do not live the life of Christ and do God’s will.

However, if we welcome the Lord into our lives through the Word of God and live out His will in obedience to the Word, we will also be blessed.  God will live in us.  “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”  (Jn 14:23f)  So let us not just superstitiously receive the Eucharist without first hearing the Word of God in the Eucharist.  Let us not make the Eucharist into an object that works automatically without the right disposition in our hearts, like the way David initially welcomed the Ark of the Covenant.  If we want the Lord to bless us, especially when we receive the Eucharist, then let us listen to the Word of God, and put it into practice.  Truly, “everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”  (Mt 7:24)

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

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