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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time -January 23rd,2022-

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity originated in 1908, beginning with the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter, 18 January, and concluding with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, 25 January. Pope St. Pius X blessed the concept of this prayer for unity and Pope Benedict XV encouraged the observance throughout the entire Roman Catholic Church. This week of prayer reflects the prayer of Jesus at the last supper: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one” (Jn.17:20).

During this week of prayer, the Lectionary presents a biblical hero: David. The newly anointed king triumphs over the Philistine giant, Goliath, and then escapes Saul’s murderous designs. David’s power peaks when he relocates the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. God rejects David’s plan to build a house (the temple), instead he promises to build David a house (a royal lineage). God seems to enjoy the word play.

Then things start to unravel with the narrator’s ominous comment: “At the turn of the year when kings go out on campaign, David sent out Joab,” his general. Why did David stay home when kings should go to war? Did David want to ensure that Uriah was away in order to have access to his wife Bathsheba? Scripture scholar Craig E. Morrison, O.Carm. thinks so.

Bathsheba is summoned, and the Hebrew text makes clear that David was the actor and Bathsheba was violated. At the king’s command, what choice did she have? Her pregnancy means that the tryst will become public. So David orchestrates Uriah’s murder in letters that the faithful soldier carries back to the front. David descends into depravity.

This study of the human heart reaches its apex in David’s encounter with the prophet Nathan, who spins a story about a rich man, a poor man, and a ewe lamb. David hollers that the rich man who took the poor man ewe lamb deserves death, unwitting naming the sentence he should receive for his adultery. Is David playing Nathan, or is he completely unconscious of his own crime, unaware of the lie he lives? We have to decide for David … and for ourselves.

We leave this hallelujah composer stretched out on the floor, refusing to eat or to get up. The schemes of his heart have been probed and exposed by God … just like ours.

Adapted from the writings of Craig E. Morrison, O.Carm., teacher at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

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