Ordinary Time 15, Year C

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)

“The Lord,” reads in part 2 Sam. 11:27, “was displeased with what David had done.” The displeasure immediately prompted the Lord to send the prophet Nathan to David. The prophet reproached the king, saying among other things (2 Sam. 12:7-10):

Thus says the Lord: “I anointed you king of Israel.
I rescued you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your
lord’s house and your lord’s wives for your own. I gave
you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were not
enough, I could count up for you still more. Why have you
spurned the Lord and done evil in his sight? You have cut
down Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you took his wife as
your own, and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites.”

Uriah was expendable. It did not matter apparently that he was one of David’s more valuable warriors (cf. 1 Chr. 11). Uriah’s refusal to go home and sleep with his wife could indicate he was intelligent enough to be suspicious; or it could mean he was indeed so loyal and so reverential that he genuinely could not bear the thought of his going against purity laws governing soldiers in military campaigns and his enjoying a bit of comfort and pleasure at home while his commanding officer and his colleagues, and whoever or whatever represented significantly the nation, were all out there in the field of war. But, as it turned out, neither intelligence nor loyalty nor reverence mattered either. There was no getting away from his being truly a mere pawn—a foot soldier simply to be used to further the purposes of his king, to cover up for him, and ultimately to be gotten rid of, should everything else fail, including suggestion, cajolement and intoxication.

Uriah, of course, was not the first soldier to suffer such a cruel fate. And sadly, he would not be the last either. Soldiers of no mean intelligence, admirable and heroic for their reverence of and loyalty to the armed services and their sworn duty, are still similarly being used to advance the interests of their commander-in-chief.

But it is always easy for me to readily and angrily blame another person, rather than myself, in the case or the story not unlike the one presented by prophet Nathan to king David (2 Sam. 12:1-6). The hard truth is that I have used others too and treated them as a means rather than an end, as objects rather than as subjects, as pleasurable toys even, or just stepping-stones to my success. Not unlike the priest or the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan who did not want to risk violating ritual purity laws and being prevented thereby from performing their ministry, I sometimes avoid and ignore others because I consider them as mere objects that get in the way of my realizing, say, a pet project or attaining a particular goal. I fail to be a neighbor to others because I refuse to get near and recognize that they, like me, are persons too. I often forget that my indifference to any person anywhere is really indifference to every person, including myself, everywhere.

If, however, I get close enough to those I tend to shy away from when I see them in the street, I may just discover, as St. Vincent de Paul did after he stopped running away, that they especially bear the likeness of Christ Jesus, himself the image of the invisible God and the first born of all creation, that these poor are my lords and masters, that in serving them I serve Jesus Christ, that to leave prayer to attend to them is really to leave God for God (cf. Ps. 31:11-12; P. Coste: IX, 246, 319; X, 332, 680; XI, 393 at [1])

I do not doubt it that God is displeased with what I frequently do. But I trust that not everything is lost. God’s grace is sufficient for me and his power is made perfect in my weakness. If, notwitstanding David’s sin, God still deigned that Jesus Christ be “the son of David,” who himself “became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah” (Mt. 1:1, 7), I have every reason to remain hopeful. By God’s grace, I can still be a neighbor to those who are largely avoided, considered expendable and on whose backs budgets are often balanced. And they are not too incromprehensible or remote; they are very near, living next door or crossing my path every workday.