Reading (1 Samuel 24:3-21) Gospel (St. Mark 3:13-19)
In the readings today, we see something that is quite extraordinary, that is, the fact that David, being in this cave, would sneak up behind Saul (who was trying to kill him), cut off the end of Saul’s cloak, and then walk away. Here he had the opportunity to take vengeance on the man who had made himself his enemy, and he chose not to do so. And the reason he did not was because, as he says, “This is the Lord’s anointed, and we are to do nothing to the Lord’s anointed.”
That is something we all need to learn a very important lesson from, that is, Scripture says: Strike not the Lord’s anointed. We need to look at some of the problems that are going on in the Church right now and realize that many of the problems are perpetuated by those whom the Lord has called to His service, the bishops and the priests, and they are the Lord’s anointed. So we have to learn from David exactly how to handle this.
We can learn the same principle from Jesus in the Gospel. He calls twelve men to Himself, and one of them, we are told, was Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. Jesus knew before He called them that that was going to happen, and Jesus had treated Judas in such a way that none of the other apostles had the idea that Judas was going to betray Him. When it came to the Last Supper and the Lord said that He was going to be betrayed by one of the Twelve, they all looked around and said, “It’s not me, is it?” Jesus did not let on at all that it would be Judas, but rather He must have treated Judas in such a way that nobody would have figured it out. And nobody did – including the other eleven who were with Him all the time.
So we see the kind of charity that God would be asking of us. Not the kind of charity to suggest that nothing wrong is being done; that is not the case at all. We have to acknowledge the wrong. David acknowledged what Saul was trying to do: Why are trying to kill me? You’re hunting me down like a dead dog or a single flea! Why are you wasting your time? He acknowledged what was going on, but he would not attack the person. That is the point we have to learn. It is very easy to do that [to attack the person], but we have to simply leave things in the Lord’s hands and in Our Lady’s hands. They will take care of things. The priests and the bishops have been called to serve Christ, and if they do not serve Him (that is, if they do not serve Him well), the Lord will handle that Himself; we do not have to.
We can certainly point out where some of the problems are. We can recognize the problems. We do not want to walk around like people whose heads are in the sand and say, “Everything is fine. There are no problems.” No, that would be wrong. We can acknowledge where the trouble is, but we need to be very careful not to make personal attacks, because if we start making false accusations, if we start doing things that are uncharitable and personal, then the sin is ours. Then we fall into that category where the Lord will have to deal with us because He is the One Who said, Strike not the Lord’s anointed. David knew that, and he would not do anything to harm Saul, even when Saul was trying to kill him. We can say, I think, that there is not anybody out there (among the priests and the bishops, at least) who is trying to kill us, so we do not have any excuse if we are falling into a complete lack of charity with regard to the people in the hierarchy. Again, we need to make the clear distinction between the person and the actions. We cannot attack the person, but we need absolutely to be able to acknowledge where things are not correct. And we need to make sure we are maintaining our charity regardless of the circumstances.
When it comes to those who are anointed by the Lord, let the Lord take care of them. He will handle it in a way that is far more perfect than we ever could. Just remember the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. There was a priest who was living with a woman, who was doing very unfortunate things, and the people had tried and tried to be able to get through to him, but the man simply would not listen. So they thought, “We’ll go and get Francis, and we’ll bring him over. He’ll really lay into him. He’ll take care of this problem.” They came to the rectory door, and the priest answered the door. Francis got down on his knees and kissed the priest’s feet, kissed his hands, and said, “It is from these hands that I receive Jesus. What can I say beyond that?” And the man converted on the spot. That is the kind of thing we can see. He was doing wrong, completely wrong, but it was the example of the saint that brought about his conversion. Rather than condemning him, the saint did just the opposite.
Now we can think about some of that ourselves and recognize the need to pray. Certainly, we can try to speak with somebody – make sure it is done always in charity – but make sure always that it is not out of malice that we are doing something, because then we are the ones who will be responsible and the Lord will deal with us. So make sure that we pray, make sure that we maintain our charity, and in all things remember: Strike not the Lord’s anointed.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.