Imagine for a moment that you are King Saul, and that you (and all of your troops) are deeply, deliciously asleep. Actually, probably half of you right now are thinking, oh yeah, I'd love some deep delicious sleep, and the other half are probably thinking, I'd love it if my children or students or colleagues would fall into a deep delicious sleep! Ah .... but back to Saul--or you, as Saul. You’ve placed your spear and your water jug carefully beside you. Off to dreamland.
But what you don't know is that also beside you stand two wide-awake people, one of whom wants to pin you to the ground with your own spear, and the other one of whom has the power to say, "Do it." You'll never know what hit you.
In our first reading today, Abishai is ready to kill Saul, but David says it would be wrong to harm the Lord’s anointed. I get the struggle. Tensions in Israel are high, lives on the line, the country at stake, the leadership and future uncertain. Wait … am I talking about Israel, or about us? And look: Everyone’s asleep, and there's a spear, just begging to be picked up. It seems to me right now especially during this pandemic that we're all somewhat ready to pick up a spear and pin our enemies to the ground. Today’s version of a spear might be something obvious, like a gun, or a bomb. Or today’s spear might be more subtle, like a piece of legislation. Today’s spear might even be an anonymous letter. An angry word. A trashcan full of single-use plastic containers, not-yet-spoiled food, and clothes that we're just tired of, all headed for the dump.
It's understandable to want to be Abishai. And easy to pick up the spear. But we can also be David. That pause for conversation is a gift; it only takes place because everyone’s asleep--and as the text says, that deep sleep is the work of the Lord. This conversation is in that liminal space, neither here nor there, in which decisions are made and carried out, and lives are changed. Because at some point in our lives, we're all going to be Saul--broken, vulnerable, and nevertheless anointed by God. In fact, we already are: Saul’s water jug reminds me that each of us at baptism is anointed by the Holy Spirit into Christ's anointing as priest, prophet, and king. David takes both spear and water jug as a sign, and then he returns them. We, too, are gifted with God’s mercy, beloved of the Creator, and called to lives of mercy and love, water jug in hand.
Deborah Wilhelm, DMin, is Adjunct Professor of Preaching and Evangelization at the Aquinas Institute of Theology, where she also co-directs the Delaplane Preaching Initiative; in addition, she lectures in practical theology at Loyola University New Orleans. She is co-author, with Bishop Sylvester Ryan, of Preaching Matters: A Praxis for Preachers, and co-author of the upcoming 2023 Year A edition of Living the Word. Deborah has also authored numerous chapters and articles for scholarly, professional, and general-audience publications, and she’s currently editing a book on preaching and racism as part of a Lilly Endowment-funded project with Aquinas Institute. She preaches monthly at the Dominican site theWord, and she speaks and leads retreats as time permits.
As a Camaldolese Benedictine oblate, Deborah strives to live as a beginner in all things and to receive those who cross her path as Christ. (Note the word “strives,” which is not quite the same as “succeeds”!) Her interests are ecumenical, environmental, and educational.
Deborah and her husband live in a rural area of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where the rivers are spectacular, the blackberries delicious, the wine exquisite, and the rain constant. They enjoy the company of their golden retriever, Maggie, as well as the daily parade of local turkeys, the occasional appearance of elk, and especially the visits of their family and friends.
The second of three volumes from the Catholic Women Preach project of FutureChurch offers homilies for each Sunday and holy days of the liturgical year by Catholic women from around the world. The first volume for Cycle A received awards for best book on Liturgy from both the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Catholic Media Association.
“Catholic Women Preach is one of the more inspiring collection of homilies available today. Based on the deep spirituality and insights of the various women authors, the homilies are solidly based on the scriptures and offer refreshing and engaging insights for homilists and listeners. The feminine perspective has long been absent in the preached word, and its inclusion in this work offers a long overdue and pastorally necessary resource for the liturgical life of the Church.” - Catholic Media Association
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