A Note to Parishioners
Last week, the Diocese of Brooklyn published a list of over a hundred priests who have been creditably accused of molesting children since 1916. Fr. Charles Kraus who served as pastor of St Charles from 1989–2007 was on that list. He was in the section of those for whom the accusations were made and investigated only after their deaths. Although “credible” is open to several interpretations, those who have performed the investigations are well respected professionals and there is no reason to doubt their conclusions. Although many, if not most, of our parishioners were not members of the Parish during his tenure, a good proportion of us, whether from this Diocese or not, will discover that at least one priest we know will be revealed as a predator. I am one of you. A priest who I grew up calling Uncle and who was a great and positive influence on me was also on that list. I am devastated.
Let me first assure everyone that St. Charles has instituted every procedure mandated by the Diocesan Safe Environment office. Maureen Pond and her staff at the Parish Religious Education Office are to be particularly commended for their diligence. We all commit ourselves to continuing vigilance.
We must also pray for those who have been victimized. The Diocese has an annual Mass of hope and healing for the survivors. This year it will be at St. Athanasius Church on April 30th Further information will follow. We will also have a Mass for everyone touched by this horror at St. Charles on the first Saturday of Lent – March 9th – at 12:00 Noon. For hope, we too need healing.
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Feb 24, 2019
1 Samuel 26: 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
We return today to the world of the prophet Samuel and the beginnings of kingship in Israel. Let us briefly review the situation. After the Israelites had settled in the Promised Land, around 1250 BC, they formed a confederation of tribes. These were independent but would form alliances when there was an external threat. This worked for almost 140 years, but by 1100, foreign powers – especially the Philistines – obtained superior weapons and were more efficiently organized. In order to respond effectively they needed a centralized government, which at that time meant a king. As we said previously, the Scriptures were ambivalent at best about kingship, but the books of Samuel make it clear that God’s people must always be led by God.
The first king is Saul. He is a formidable warrior and military commander. He improves the states’ fighting ability but does not set up structures of government. He organizes an army but not a court. He is acting like a chieftain not a king, both administratively and spiritually.
This is shown by the incomprehensible destruction of the city of Amalek.
8 He took Agag, king of Amalek, alive, but on the rest of the people he put into effect the ban of destruction by the sword. 9 He and his troops spared Agag and the best of the fat sheep and oxen, and the lambs. They refused to carry out the doom on anything that was worthwhile, dooming only what was worthless and of no account. 1 Samuel 15:8–9
Saul was instructed to destroy the city state of Amalek totally: a ban of destruction. He did so, but kept the king alive and took all that was worthwhile. Samuel confronts him and he lies to him. He said that he had taken the sheep and oxen to offer them as sacrifice to God. After Samuel pressures him, he admits the real reason:
24 Saul replied to Samuel: “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed the command of the LORD and your instructions. In my fear of the people, I did what they said. 1 Samuel 15:24
He shows himself a weak leader afraid of his people but also a faithless person. He reveals this by referring to God as “your God” to Samuel and “their God” to the people, but not his God. He completely alienates himself from God when he consults a witch to contact the deceased Samuel. Samuel tells Saul that
17 The LORD has done to you what he foretold through me: he has torn the kingdom from your grasp and has given it to your neighbor David. 19 Moreover, the LORD will deliver Israel, and you as well, into the clutches of the Philistines. By tomorrow you and your sons will be with me, and the LORD will have delivered the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 28:17–19
This is not the first time that Saul has been told that David is to replace him, yet he does not stand aside. He does not realize that his authority comes from God. He is a king who in every way does not understand what it is to be a king.
We can now better understand today’s passage from 1 Samuel. Saul had become very jealous of David, who, although originally hired as a singer to relieve Saul’s headaches, has proven himself a capable military leader. So much so that when he returned from one particularly impressive victory:
7 The women played and sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” 8 Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought: “They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship.” 1 Samuel 18:7–8
Saul is clearly showing that he has put his own feelings ahead of the kingdom. David has by this time fled the presence of Saul and gathered an army of those alienated by Saul around him. When David sees Saul’s army, he and Abishai, a trusted lieutenant
went among Saul’s soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner and his men sleeping around him. 1 Samuel 26:7
Abishai sensibly suggests that they kill Saul on the spot and end David’s persecution. David says to him:
9 But David said to Abishai, “Do not harm him, for who can lay hands on the LORD’S anointed and remain unpunished? 10 As the LORD lives,” David continued, “it must be the LORD himself who will strike him, whether the time comes for him to die, or he goes out and perishes in battle. 11 But the LORD forbid that I touch his anointed 1 Samuel 26:9–11a
They took his spear and water jug and returned to their camp. David understands and respects the meaning of kingship more than the king himself. He particularly understands that the king was chosen, anointed and installed by God Himself and his office should be determined by God alone.
David calls over to Saul in his camp:
19 Please, now, let my lord the king listen to the words of his servant. If the LORD has incited you against me, let an offering appease him; but if men, may they be cursed before the LORD, because they have exiled me so that this day I have no share in the LORD’S inheritance, but am told: ‘Go serve other gods!’ 20 Do not let my blood flow to the ground far from the presence of the LORD. Samuel 26:19–20
Note that David’s concern is that he may be forced to serve another king and will serve their gods as well. In our terms, he may lose his faith. This God-centeredness is the major difference between David and Saul.
This week the Pope has met with the presidents of every bishops conference in the world to remind them what being a bishop is. He is a shepherd and like the good shepherd must be prepared to lay down his life for the sheep. He will always be human and thus imperfect. The Bible reveals both Saul and David to be deeply flawed men. David however is aware of his frailty and deep sinfulness as revealed by the story of Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, but he ultimately has the humility to ask for forgiveness and to recognize his responsibilities. The Bible uses this comparison again and again. Both Judas and Peter betray Jesus at the end. Both realize this, but Judas is unable to ask for forgiveness and kills himself. Peter reconciles with Jesus and becomes the first Pope. We ask this of our leaders, not that they embrace perfection, but with true humility embrace Jesus.