Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
(I Samuel 4:1-11; Mark 1:40-45)
After every human tragedy – earthquake, hurricane, defeat in war – humans ask themselves why it happened. Believing people will wonder why God permitted the evil to befall them. Is God being capricious, they wonder, or are they not responding properly to God’s initiatives? So the elders of the Israel in the first reading ask, “'Why has the Lord permitted us to be defeated today by the Philistines?’” Apparently assuming that the problem lies with God’s supposed inattentiveness, the elders summon the Ark of the Covenant to be brought from its sanctuary in Shiloh to the battlefront. Surely the Lord will wake up to the people’s need need, the elders must be surmising, if He is among our troops.
Of course, the tactic fails. God knows quite well what their situation is yet chooses not to support the Israelis. God has His reasons which will always be obscure to humankind. We might speculate in this case that God is changing the center of human authority from judges to a king as well as the center of cultic worship from Shiloh to Jerusalem. But God’s reasons are in the end unfathomable. If we could figure them all out, we would sit on an equal level with God. This is not to say that God capriciously caresses and despises humans at whim. No, God has definitively shown his favorable disposition toward us in Jesus Christ. What Jesus suffered to liberate humans from sin manifests God’s love for us. And Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is our surest promise of God’s will for our well-being.