January 20, 2010

David, Goliath, and the Spiritual Combat

Today in the first reading we arrive at the famous scene of David's defeat of Goliath. I didn't preach on it for the 8:30 am crowd, but maybe I'll be feeling loose and wild enough to go for it by the 7:30 pm Mass tonight. There's an allegorical interpretation in there about the battle of the Church or the individual Christian with evil, temptation, and the devil. I'm not sure that I have it all together, but I've arrived at a few points.

  • Confidence matters. David went out confident and trusting in the Lord. He dismisses Saul's warnings. He knows that God wants to give him victory. He knows that it is God's fight and not his.
  • "The Philistine held David in contempt." We should always know that evil and the devil hate us and the good we are able to do with God's help. All the "empty promises" have this contempt behind them. Keeping this in mind can help us to see through the non-being and non-sense of evil and not be distracted by the glittering wisdom of the world.
  • Taunting can help. Of course it's a standard part of warfare, and thus it appears in the story. Mocking and taunting demoralize the enemy and build up the confidence of the taunter. Sometimes it can be very helpful and liberating to mock our temptations and the world, flesh, and devil behind them.
  • "Am I a dog that you come against me with a staff?" says Goliath. He doesn't see and is unaware of David's real weapon, the sling and stone. It is the nature of sin, evil, and the devil to be cut off from God and thus to be unaware of grace. This is why temptations and diabolical attacks can come upon us with such confidence that we will fold up and be ruined--they can't see the power of God that is with us. Knowing this can give us a lot of confidence for the spiritual combat.
  • David defeats Goliath with sling and stone. It is a small, simple, and humble weapon, but one that requires skill. It also requires preparation; David had carefully selected the stones from the Wadi beforehand. So it is with us; our weapon in the spiritual fight is our simple faith and confidence that the battle is God's rather than our own. All we have to do is let God fight and win the battle on our behalf. Nevertheless, this surrender is so delicate and contrary to our wounded nature that it takes practice and preparation beforehand if we are to make it work at the critical moment of temptation or the attack of evil. The preparation is living a sacramental life of daily prayer, and the skill of the surrender is one that we must practice at each moment of the day.
  • To kill the Philistine is not enough. His head must be cut off. In the same way, to allow God to defeat a temptation within us is a great work of obedience and religion, but we are not done. We must also cut off the sources of temptation in ourselves. Ripping out the selfishnesses and myopias from our hearts and souls with leave some very raw and confused spots inside us, but these are the sorts of wounds that can become openings to the grace of God. They can become our stigmata. "From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the stigmata of Jesus on my body." (Galatians 6:17)


Ad Abolendam said...

Awesome. The Church is sorely in need of a "return to allegory."

KAM said...

Excellent. I'd go with it.

pennyante said...

Just another little thought. Those "smooth stones" must have been in the wadi for millenia because the wadi is dry until the rains fill it. The stones become smooth from that water rushing over them. The stones were being prepared for David already a long long time before!

Brother Charles said...

And may the waters of our baptism form us into smooth stones as well!

Anonymous said...

You have no idea how much I needed to hear (i.e., read) this today ...

Karinann said...

These are wonderful and useful points. I especially like the last one- those raw and open wounds becoming openings for God's grace-our stigmata.
Great post/homily.
God Bless, Br. Charles.

FrankCaiati said...

Actually, today I realized that I am moving into new territory in my relationship with God.
I'm going from a learning and loving who God is and how we are so united to learning to LIVE with God out in the real world.
As an Us.
And THAT has really brought home some much needed confidence!