1 February 2008. First Friday in the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time
2 Samuel 1, 1-17 and Psalm 51: The Death of Urriah
David was the epitome of a servant of the Lord. His faithfulness and love of God was without doubt. The Lord blessed him and promised him a royal lineage where the Messiah would come. But in the readings today we hear about David’s murder of Urriah the Hittite. Urriah was the husband of Bathsheba whom David would like to covet. After he saw her beauty while bathing, David seduced her. She got pregnant, therefore providing the impetus for Urriah’s murder. Now, we ask how can a man of God commit murder?
A few days ago, I was at Philippine Jesuit Prison Service, the office of the chaplain of the National Penitentiary. We had mass inside the prison, and Fr. Vids Gornez SJ, gave me a brief background of some of the people at mass. A lay minister was once a priest charged of illegal recruitment. A member of the choir was once a seminarian whose crime was estafa. In newspapers in the past decade, we had many people who have committed abominable crimes. In the women correctional, one meets many women whom I think are very good mothers whose crimes were mostly theft or fraud, driven by the need of her family. These stories are unthinkable for many of us; but the reality just stares at our faces.
We do not condone their crimes — even David’s. We do not agree with what they have done. We affirm that they have scandalize and disrupted the bonds that constitute the fabric of society. We can go on and on about how their crimes have affected and will affect the community we live in. It is not unthinkable then that these are the people we ostracized, we put to jail, we avoid to associate with. These are our Davids today.
They are the people at the periphery of our communities, and our consciousness. Some of us would make hasty generalizations, “All priests are evil, religion then is a hypocrisy;” or make gender biases like “all women seduce men to be unfaithful to their wives and their vocation.” Notice, it was David who saw Bathsheba first. It was not Bathsheba’s intention to seduce David. It was David who sent for Bathsheba to come to the palace. And at that time, or till now, it would be difficult to refuse a king — or in the Philippines and the US, a president.
However, it was in the National Penitentiary that I experienced what a mass should be as Vatican II stipulated. All of them were singing to a live band. But it was there that I felt sincerity: when they sang the Kyrie (“Lord Have Mercy”), they were like the Psalmist today who pleaded, “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” At communion, they all lined up peacefully to receive Christ. To me the heart of Christ goes out to them.
How do we understand all these? Are we who did not committed as grave as their sins better than them? Are we better than King David? Or, who is better: the prisoner who sings from his heart, “Lord have mercy” or the daily churchgoer who doesn’t even care to open her mouth when the Kyrie is sung? Who is better: the apathetic unparticipative massgoer who needs Christ’s heart, or the prisoner who has the heart of Christ?