(2 Sm 15:13-14,30; 16:5-13; Ps 3:2-7; Mk 5:1-20)
Faithful followers of the Lord are easy targets for those who are not. This is nothing new.
From the Old Testament to the New, from one generation to the next, our history as a people has been fraught with examples of persecution, sometimes verbal, often times violent.
When this happens, the natural human response is to fight back. Insult for insult, barb for barb, stone for stone. But where does that get us?
David has an interesting altercation in today’s first reading with a man who vents the frustration of his people in a vivid way. The king’s response is interesting.
As he is fleeing from the murderous intentions of his son, Absalom, David and his trusted crew are met by a man named Shimei, an interesting character who takes out his frustration by cursing David and his officers, picking up stones and tossing them at the well-armed crew.
Shimei was saying as he cursed: “Away, away, you murderous and wicked man! The LORD has requited you for all the bloodshed in the family of Saul, in whose stead you became king, and the LORD has given over the kingdom to your son Absalom. And now you suffer ruin because you are a murderer.”
Clearly, Shimei had anger management issues, but he also had a point. Many felt that David betrayed his office with the nasty affair and subsequent killing of Uriah. It was scandalous.
Reading this episode reminded me of how many of our priests wearing their white collars are accosted as they walk down the busy streets of life – cursed at, spit on, sometimes attacked for the scandals of the Church. For the lay person, it’s not quite so bad; but even so, many faithful Christians, Muslims and Jews face the same ridicule, anger, insults and the loss of friendships whenever such scandals occur.
It goes with the territory.
Back to the story of David, who was no doubt dodging the stones while listening to the rant of Shimei as his group continued to flee. The verbal abuse got so bad that one of David’s crew suggested – actually begged him – to let him walk over and “lop off his head.”
Ah, how many times are we tempted to respond with violence? Maybe not by lopping off the head of someone questioning papal authority, but maybe a little push back?
David has an interesting response.
“What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses? Suppose the LORD has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
So … maybe instead of responding with violence, we listen to what is being said? It may be nonsense. It may be profane or vulgar. But we should listen?
“Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. Perhaps the LORD will look upon my affliction and make it up to me with benefits for the curses he is uttering this day.”
David suggests that by rising above the impulse to be violent, the Lord may reward us for taking the high road.
Jesus affirms that during his Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.” Luke 6 22-23
And so, with Shimei continuing to stand off to the side of the road, throwing his rocks and hurling his curses and insults, David took the high road and moved on.
A good lesson here for anyone who feels the brunt of persecution today.
Listen. Absorb. Respond when asked. Move along and pray for those who hate you.