Going through today’s 1st reading (1 Samuel 4:1-11) one would rightly ask: “why were the Israelites defeated by the Philistines even when they brought the Ark of the Lord to their battlefield”? And what can we learn from their experience with God?
I think that the reading we are given to meditate on today questions us on our conceptions of God and how we relate to Him. The Israelites experienced a terrible defeat in the hands of their enemies. According to the text, they remembered the “Ark of the Lord” (symbol of God’ presence in their midst) after their first defeat. They asked themselves important question: “Why has the Lord permitted us to be defeated today by the Philistines?” As believers sometimes we do ask similar questions especially when things or events do not work the way we had prayed and hoped. Our “questions of faith” should lead us to a deeper dialogue– encounter with God.
What God Permits and the Will of God:
It is important to note that there is a fundamental difference between what God permits and what He wants. Sometimes God may permit that some events or incidence take place in the life of His people. The final goal is to lead us to His eternal will of salvation for us. When God allows us to experience failure, discouragement, even doubts, it’s also to help us grow in faith and purify us of false conceptions of who God is and what He can do. So, God cannot be reduced to an idol that man can lay hands on, used to satisfy his selfish desires.
Based on the story narrated in the book of Samuel I can say that at this particular moment of their lives the Israelites had a utilitarian understanding of God. In other words, they remembered God when in need, their faith wavered, and they had a magic conception of God. One could ask then: “what is and should be the right attitude of any believer before God”?
God’s Will is Always the Best
We find the response in today’s Gospel (Mark 1:40-45). A leper came to Jesus. Kneeling down he begged him and said, “If you wish, you can me clean.” The leper came to Jesus with faith. His faith was expressed in his attitude of humility; he knelt down. Before God we cannot but be humble ourselves. Jesus taught us this. A good example is the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. Jesus ended the story saying: “For anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Moved with pity Jesus stretched out his hand and spoke the healing word over the leper.
In the prayer of the leper, we learn the essential attitude before God. The leper abandoned himself to the Will of God. He was convinced that God’s Will is capable of granting his request. We also can have faith in what God can do for us but at the same time learn to abandon ourselves to God’s Will. This was the attitude of Jesus who, when confronted with agony in the garden of Gethsemane, prayed saying: “Father, not my will but your will be done” We cannot force God to do our will. Rather we should pray that gradually we desire what God desires.
Docility and Confidence in God
Being docile and confident would help us experience peace of mind in our relationship with God especially when we are struggling with knowing His Will for us in a particular situation. I believe that our Blessed Mother Mary has a lot to teach us. In her faith she said to God “May it be done to me according to your words.”
As we begin this ordinary time of a new liturgical season, let us learn to walk with the Lord with humility and faith and He will heal us of our leprosy, and idolatries. May God bless us as we learn to abandon ourselves to his eternal Will. Amen.