January 29, 2016 (2)
After reading through our Mass readings for today, two things struck me: the immense sinfulness of David’s actions, and the infinitely more immense faithfulness of God.
The first reading details the well-known, awful string of David’s sins: lusting over Bathsheba, having sex with her, and then conniving to kill her husband after he finds out that she's pregnant. We see the momentum of how smaller sinful desires manifest into committed sin, and then, how it can get even worse when we humans panic and try to cover our tracks.
And! We see how when one has great power and prestige, there is a unique possibility for even greater sin, for sin to more quickly grow. David only has to “send” for Bathsheba, and she comes. David “sends” for Uriah, and he comes. Without his power, perhaps the thought of having sex with Bathsheba would have just remained a thought, perhaps the idea of killing Uriah would have only remained an idea, but his power allowed his impulses to take shape quickly. Earthly power is a double-edged sword.
And after all of that, the reading ends with the fact that Bathsheba’s husband dies.
“…the Word of the Lord." “Thanks be to God. …*winces*"
Not very often in Old Testament Mass readings do we find so clear a message (but maybe it’s just me): Man failed. Miserably. Awfully. You can’t argue with how wrong his actions were. But then! The next reading is one of the most penitential Psalms of David, and is even prefaced by "When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.” You're a real pal, Nathan.
Of course David probably felt the weight of his sins, but sadly, the bigger the sin, the bigger the gap between feeling the weight of one’s sins and properly repenting and requesting forgiveness. There is a certain shame, a manifestation of pride, that keeps one from coming directly to the Lord for forgiveness. Sometimes, oftentimes, a friend in Christ needs to step in and help you see your faults. Nathan, good ol’ Nathan, provided this for David.
Without the Gospel reading, the other readings would just be a mess. But in the gospel reading, Jesus provides a parable to affirm the powerlessness of man and the overshadowing and overwhelming power of God. Jesus uses the image of a mustard seed to emphasize that even if your faith is a seed the size of a grain of sand, when planted and watered and watched, it can grow into something enormous and fruitful. It’s about all of the conditions around the seed, AND the fact that the seed represents possibility of new life; it is not just a grain of sand even though it is the same size and shape at face value.
Just picture the ground, dirt, patted and watered with a tiny seed far below the surface. Picture all the prayers you forgot you said, all the times you looked to God, thought of Him when you had sinned, asked for forgiveness. The times when you clenched your eyes shut and thought "not again, how could I do that again... oh God...". Picture the times when you turned to Him, asking Him to show His Face, asking for guidance and trusting that He heard you. More seeds below the surface, more tiny tiny seeds in the ground.
And we wait, looking at the ground, feeling like fools at times, but waiting still. The seeds are nothing without the immense earth surrounding it, the seasons of rain and dryness, mysterious processes of how new life forms, strengthens. Think of the dirt, the field of your life. God will make all things new if we would just trust in His process, put our tiny seeds of trust in the ground, and keep them there.
Create in us clean hearts, oh God, and renew steadfast spirits of repentance and faith within us.