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Monday of 2nd Week of Ordinary Time: Reflection & Liturgy


2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-01-20

1 Sam 15:16-23 / Mark 2:18-22

Saul disobeys God: God rejected Saul.

Samuel rebuked Saul for not following customary battle procedure and enforcing the “ban” against the Amalekites. The ban was a primitive religious practice by which everything captured in battle was destroyed. Instead of putting all the cattle to the sword, Saul permitted his men to take some cattle and sacrifice them to God. At issue was the teaching that obedience to the Law is far better than sacrifice. The prophets constantly reiterated this point. (Amos 5:22-24, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:7-8)

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How guilty are we of praying to and worshiping God in church, but not always following his teachings in life? “What I want from you is plain and clear: I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than have them burn offerings to me.” Hosea 6:5-6
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Nowadays the word "obedience" seems to be used only in a limited way. It is often used on children when they are told to obey their parents, as if they had a choice. Even in the military, obedience is not a choice, and it is propagated under threat of punishment.

As we look at the 1st reading, we may wonder why Samuel was harping on the disobedience of king Saul to the extent that he was going to be disposed of as king. We may think that what king Saul did was rather pragmatic, and that the best sheep and oxen from the booty was sacrificed to God.
But we must remember that the battles in the Old Testament were religious wars. It was not just one nation against another, but also one god against another. Hence, the customary battle procedure of the "ban" was a primitive religious practice in which everything captured in battle was destroyed because it was considered as religiously profane and contaminated.

So king Saul not only made a defiled and unclean offering to God, he also did not make the sacrifice from what was his own.

When this is understood, then we will realize the seriousness of the extent of the disobedience of king Saul and why he was later disposed of as king.

In the gospel, the topic of discussion seems to be fasting. But the teaching of Jesus can be summarized in the last phrase of the gospel - New wine, fresh skins.

When applied to the spiritual observances of our faith like fasting and doing penance and observing the precepts of the church, we need to ask ourselves if we know the reason and purpose of such observances.

Because if we are unclear about why we are doing what we are doing, and especially when we find it burdensome or troublesome, we will rationalize it away and we will want to be pragmatic and practical.

We may think that we are smarter and more practical than the laws and the teachings of the Church.

But pride comes before the fall. King Saul succumbed to it. May we be wise and subject ourselves in obedience to God, least we fall.


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LITURGY
OLD AND NEW


Introduction

The reading from Samuel narrates the beginning of the disenchantment with King Saul. He kept the spoils of war that he was told not to keep.
You know from experience that change is always a problem to us. It calls us away from the security of our ingrained habits and our certainties. And it forces us to go unfamiliar ways. That is why, as if by nature, we resist change. It is an inherent law of Christianity to be always open to renewal and conversion. The trouble is that the old and the new are usually intolerant of one another.

Opening Prayer
Unchanging and ever-new God, you want us to be your pilgrim people on the march with Jesus, your Son, toward a new future of justice and love. Do not allow us to be suffocated in being contented with old habits and sluggish ways. Help us to accept the pain of leaving the familiar behind us and open us to the challenge of the Gospel to become more like your Son who guides our faltering steps, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Commentary
Saul did not enjoy God’s favor for long. Today’s reading recalls an occasion when he incurred God’s displeasure. The prophet Samuel makes it very clear that obedience is of greater value than sacrifice. Submission to the will of God takes precedence over ritual. In so many words, Saul is told that his days are numbered.
While Jesus has no argument with fasting, it is clear that the emphasis of his teaching falls elsewhere. It is always spiritual alertness that comes to the fore. This means to see my neighbor as brother or sister and to regard that relationship as preeminent, to the exclusion of my personal concerns. We can ask ourselves, which parables stand out most clearly? The Good Samaritan, the father and the prodigal son, the lost sheep, the lost coin. More than anything else, it is the recognition of the sovereignty of God and the needs of others.
Everything rotates around this basic principle.
We may feel a certain remorse for eating that chocolate cake during Lent. But God is more concerned about the person with whom I have not spoken for months. Or the shut-in who could use an occasional helping hand.
The Samuel story suggests that we not disregard what God asks of us. The Gospel at least suggests that we don’t have to travel far to put Christ’s teaching into practice.

Points to Ponder
Saul’s disregard of God’s will
Obedience better than sacrifice
Fasting in our lives
The Great Commandment as paramount

Intercessions
– For the Church, that the People of God and its leaders may follow the promptings of the creative Spirit, to speak to the people of today in the language of today, the ever-new message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we pray:
– For artists, poets and inventors, that they may reveal to us the splendor of creation and the riches of life beyond its apparent drabness, we pray:
– For our communities, that we may not be afraid of authentic change and draw from Christ the courage to start the renewal of the world and of the Church with the renewal of ourselves, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, our God,  with bread and wine, we celebrate  the covenant you renew with us  in the blood of Jesus Christ.  Make us indeed your new faithful people bound to you in an everlasting union of love.  Renew our hearts; make us your new wine of hope and joy, that we may rebuild this earth today and march forward with your Son toward a new heaven, where you will be our God for ever.  

Prayer after Communion   
God of hope, you have given us Jesus, your Son, as our companion on the road for understanding the old familiar things with a new and young heart and for renewing ourselves and the world.  Let him prod us on when we try to compromise by merely patching up the old here and there; let him curb our impatience when we try to rush people beyond their capacity for growth.  Lead us ever forward through our trusted guide, Jesus Christ, our Lord.   

Blessing    Yes, it is not easy to change ourselves, our Church, our world. But life is growth. We have to grow up to the size and the stature of Christ. We have to become mature Christians in mature communities, with the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.