King David showing remorse for his sinfulness
Today is our first Sunday of Lent, our annual 40 days of preparation for the glory of Easter. We hear in our first reading about a new covenant with God that will be shown by the sign of a rainbow, that miraculous and mysterious work of God through nature. God had to cleanse his people from their un-repentant sinfulness, their irreversible concupiscence that had gone to far.
In 1st Peter we hear that Christ's profound purpose is to lead us to God. Christ comes down from heaven to lead us to God through our sinfulness and our purification. He remains with us today in the Spirit, as he promised that he would never abandon us. The water of baptism recall's Noah's Ark and it's saving power from the floods that wiped out the world and it's inhabitants.
We heard what is perhaps my favorite prayer and my favorite Psalm twice in the first three days of Lent, Psalm 51 (including Ash Wednesday) -- Miserere mei Domine -- The first stanza goes:
Have mercy on me in your kindness, Lord
In your compassion, blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
This beautiful poem (hymn) is attributed to King David, the great Israeli King who lived 1000 years before Christ and from whom Jesus descends. The setting for this beautiful, penitential act is the following.
David is King and Israel is secure from all its enemies and outside invaders. While his army is out campaigning David sees from his roof the beautiful but married Bathsheba bathing on her roof. He sends for her and sleeps with her, impregnating her. She sends him a message alerting him to this fact.
He tries to cover up their affair but her husband will not return to his bed, instead showing loyalty to the King and remaining as his guard. David is faced with a dilemma. He will be exposed as an adulterer.
He has a choice to make and chooses wrong. He has Uriah killed on the battlefield and then takes Bathsheba as his wife. Nathan sees the wrong (he is the King's prophet) and tells David a parable so that the scandal will be exposed to him.
The greatness of David might be attributed to many things: his just rule, his military might or his elevation of the chosen people of God to the status of great nation. However, I believe we venerate David (as do our Jewish brothers and sisters) because of his kind heart.
King David had a repentant heart as seen by the words of Psalm 51. He realizes his weakness, his frailty and turns to God for forgiveness. He takes measures to make recompense, he fasts and mourns and puts himself at the mercy of God. He prays for forgiveness and tries to do good by the widow Bathsheba taking her as his wife.
In our Gospel today we hear of Jesus, who is Lord and God, going to prepare himself for ministry in the Desert. Jesus reminds us all why it is important to retreat into solitude and fasting to garner spiritual strength. He allows angels to minister to him while being tempted by the evil one. He emerges perhaps physically weaker but spiritual stronger to resolve to do the will of his Father. Mark announces at the end of this passage that "This is the time of fulfillment, to repent and believe in the Gospel." Thus Our Lord's earthly ministry begins.
We must to learn from King David that prayer, fasting and almsgiving are important practices of Christian virtue. We must prepare ourselves as does The Christ to foster oneness with the Lord God. We must recognize that we live in the time of fulfillment and so order our lives to the Gospel. As is said to us on Ash Wednesday, "Repent and believe in the Gospel." We need not await any other signs such as Noah's rainbow.
We begin Lent knowing that the awaited Messiah, the Son of God and the son of David has come and calls us to conversion. He will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. He is the fulfillment of all scripture and prophesy, the long awaited Messiah of the House of David. David who as all powerful King could have ignored Nathan and done nothing. Instead he repented recognizing that God is Lord of all our lives, especially those with much power.
There is nothing left to make us complete except to turn toward our Lord and believe in the Gospel.