Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
(I Samuel 4:1-11; Mark 1:40-45)
After every human tragedy – earthquake, hurricane, tsunami – humans ask themselves why it happened. They wonder whether God is capricious, whether they did not respond properly to God’s initiatives, or whether He exists at all. Such questions echo the elders of Israel in today’s first reading.
“’Why has the Lord permitted us to be defeated today by the Philistines?’” the men ask themselves. Apparently assuming that the problem lies with God’s lack of attention, they summon the Ark of the Covenant to be brought to the battlefront. “Surely the Lord will wake up,” the elders seem to say, “when He sees His people’s need.” Of course, the tactic fails. God knows quite well what their situation, yet chooses not to support the Israelites.
God has His reasons which will always, to some degree at least, remain obscure to humankind. We might speculate in the case under consideration 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 out, we would sit on an equal level with God. This is not to say that God caresses and despises humans at whim. No, He has definitively shown favor toward all of us in Jesus Christ. What Jesus suffered to liberate humans from sin manifests majestically the Father’s love. We must respond by embracing whole-heartedly the mystery of God -- both when it seems to favor us and when it seems to reject us.