Sunday, March 29, 2015

Year B Palm/Passion Sunday

Readings: Isa 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9.17-20.23-24; Phil 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

We call this Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. It is right and good that we call it both because it highlights the movement we enact in this liturgy- from revering Jesus, hailing Him with “Hosannas” while waving palm branches and acknowledging Him as Messiah, the heir of King David, if not quite yet as Lord, to reviling Him and calling for His crucifixion. This serves to highlight a reality described well by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

But it is only by His crucifixion and resurrection , through what we might call the inverse property of redemption, that the Jesus definitively demonstrated His Lordship, that is, His divinity.

It is important to point out that, in the Gospels, those who hail Jesus and those who revile Him and call for His death are not the same people. Pope Benedict, in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection noted that all four Evangelists are clear that those clamoring for the Lord’s death are not “the Jewish people as such” (185). As the long, sad history of Christian anti-Semitism amply demonstrates, such an understanding is vitally important.

We know, not only from Scripture and Church teaching, or even from the glorious witness of the saints, but from our own experience that we bear our share of the responsibility for Jesus’ cruel and painful death. Hence, I try to be ever mindful that when Jesus forgave those nailing Him to the Cross, He forgave me. When considering this convicting reality, it is important never to lose sight of the inverse property of redemption, which teaches us that love is stronger than death.

Just what is the inverse property of redemption? It is nothing other than this: without His resurrection, Jesus’ crucifixion is just another appalling instance of man’s inhumanity to man, which can only be lamented and mourned - AND - in order to be resurrected, Jesus had to die.

Yesterday was the 500th anniversary of the birth of that great Doctor of the Church, the Carmelite mystic, St Teresa of Ávila. In contemplating her life and witness we are faced with the fact that she suffered much, even after her profound encounter with the risen Lord. Once St Teresa complained to the Lord in prayer about the hostility she faced. When Jesus told her, “Teresa, that's how I treat my friends,” she replied, “No wonder you have so few.” This reality is something most of us, including myself, find disconcerting, despite the fact the Lord tells us that to follow Him is to be led to the Cross.

Let’s not forget the words of Jesus from last Sunday’s Gospel:
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me (John 12:24-26a)
Crucifixion, by Graham Sutherland, 1946

In the midst of your own pain and suffering, how often have you cried out, like Jesus on Cross, using the words like those found at the beginning of the twenty-second Psalm - “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Like our Lord on the Cross, do not forget that this Psalm, as well as your own suffering, at least when you unite it to Christ's, are occasions of hope, not despair, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. We read further on in Psalm 22: God “has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, [He] did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out” (25). The proof that God hears the cries of Eve's “poor, banished children" is His Son’s resurrection from the dead.

My brothers and sisters, our take-away today is simple: if we would rise with Christ, we must die with Him. This is nothing other than to understand and live, or, in the case of our Elect, to prepare for, our Baptism into the Lord’s death and resurrection.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

St Teresa of Ávila

Today marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Ávila, a Doctor of the Church. I have yet to read her autobiography, which was the catalyst for Edith Stein, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, to convert. In her official biography on the Holy See's website, we read that, in the summer of 1921, Edith Stein "spent several weeks in Bergzabern (in the Palatinate) on the country estate of Hedwig Conrad-Martius, another pupil of [Edmund] Husserl's. Hedwig had converted to Protestantism with her husband. One evening Edith picked up an autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila and read this book all night. 'When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth.' Later, looking back on her life, she wrote: 'My longing for truth was a single prayer.'"

Just as St Paul's writing about suffering had "street cred" because he suffered so much for the sake the Lord, St Teresa knew whereof she wrote for the same reason, she suffered much, especially after her turn to the Lord, a reality most of us find disconcerting despite the fact the Lord tells us that to follow Him is to be led to the Cross.

Santa Teresa de Ávila, by François Gérard

At one point in her life, prior to her profound encounter with God, Teresa contracted malaria and became very ill. During her illness she had a seizure that left her unconscious and near death. In fact, she was thought to be dead. She awoke several days later only to discover a grave had been dug for her. This illness left her paralyzed for three years. But she was still not yet able or willing to give herself to God through prayer. Once she was given the grace of desiring to pray and the grace to turn to God in prayer, she wrote: "Prayer is an act of love, words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love."

What kept her from prayer, even for years after entering the cloister? It was a malady all too common, even in our day. She did not believe herself worthy of God's love and tender care. After she  was able to truly pray, she asserted that not praying is akin to "a baby turning from its mother's breasts, what can be expected but death?"

Let nothing disturb you.

Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices. — St Teresa

Sancta Teresa de Ávila, ora pro nobis

Friday, March 27, 2015

Praying the Holy Rosary together with intention

Today, via the blog The hermeneutic of continuity (where I went to check out a "Tour of a Carthusian cell"), I came across, in another post, a reference to an encyclical letter of Pope St John XXIII- Grata Recordatio, which he promulgated in September 1959, in advance of the month of October, traditionally the month of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Pope St John XXIII

Pope St John began Grata Recondatio by making reference to the frequent encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, which he issued in the lead up to October, exhorting the faithful to pray the Holy Rosary. Of these letters, Good Pope John wrote that they
had varied contents, but they were all very wise, vibrant with fresh inspiration, and directly relevant to the practice of the Christian life. In strong and persuasive terms they exhorted Catholics to pray to God in a spirit of faith through the intercession of Mary, His Virgin Mother, by reciting the holy rosary. For the rosary is a very commendable form of prayer and meditation. In saying it we weave a mystic garland of Ave Maria's, Pater Noster's, and Gloria Patri's. And as we recite these vocal prayers, we meditate upon the principal mysteries of our religion; the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Redemption of the human race are proposed, one event after another, for our consideration" (par 2)
Grata Recondatio is a very short encyclical and so easily read. In it Papa Roncalli laid out what he wanted the Church to pray for during October 1959 through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin by means of her Most Holy Rosary. Among his intentions are several that remain relevant today, including this, under the heading "False Philosophies" -
It must also be remarked that there are current today certain schools of thought and philosophy and certain attitudes toward the practical conduct of life which cannot possibly be reconciled with the teachings of Christianity. This impossibility We shall never cease from asserting in firm and unambiguous, though also calm terms. But God wishes the welfare of men and of nations! (Wis. 1:14)

And so We hope that men will set aside those sterile postulates and assumptions, hard as rock and just as inflexible, which rise from a way of thinking and acting that is infected with laicism and materialism, and that they will find a complete cure in that sound doctrine which experience makes more certain with every day that passes. We mean that doctrine which attests that God is the author of life and its laws, that He is guarantor of the rights and dignity of the human person. God then is "our refuge and our Redemption" (par 17-18)
We live in a time when false philosophies abound. One example of this is the persistent attempt to turn behaviors into "identities" and then assert that those who share a particular "identity" are part of an inchoate "community." The proliferation of these "communities" contribute to the further fragmentation of society. All of this is nothing other than ideology at work. Such attempts succeed because they promise liberation, which is a lie, as many, sadly, discover through experience. We pray and act because we love God and our neighbor and, so, we will what God wills, which is "the welfare of men and of nations!"

While I am writing about our Blessed Mother, it bears mentioning that I am currently reading Eddie Doherty's book Matt Talbot: Fighting addiction, poverty, and the turmoil of Irish life at the turn of the century, Matt leads us humbly to the Mother of God. Yes, that is the subtitle. To give you some idea of the devotion Venerable Matt Talbot had for Our Lady, Doherty relates that he slept on his bed, made of rough, unsanded planks of lumber, "with a statue of the Virgin and Child in his right arm" (69). According to Doherty, Matt "searched all over Dublin for the right [statue], and it had taken a long time find it" (69).

For a shorter take on the life and witness of Venerable Matt Talbot see my teacher and mentor, Msgr M. Francis Mannion's article from last Spring, "A patron saint for those suffering from alcoholism?"

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Let me go boys"

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent puts us on the threshold of Holy Week, which begins this Sunday with our celebration of Palm Sunday. At least for me, Lent is always a roller coaster. I am convinced that this is the Lord's way of showing me how mistaken I usually am about Him and His ways with me. That is a vague way of stating that, even after all these years, I can't seem to shake what I can only describe as my hyper-Pelagian upbringing, meaning, even more clearly, I can't earn His love or His approval because I always already have both. The backside, so to speak, of this realization is that I can't lose what He not only gives me so freely, one might even say He wants to give me desperately, which isn't life through Him, but life with Him and in Him, which is nothing less than to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity.

I am a firm believer, however, that it is perfectly possible to refuse what the Lord freely offers me. What He offers is nothing less than Himself. As a result, I can accept His offer of friendship or reject it. After all, love that is mandatory, as opposed to freely given, doesn't qualify as love. I try not to follow Jesus from the motivation that He will provide for me in terms of worldly well-being, comfort, or even necessarily re-assurance, but for Himself. He is not the means, but the end, my ultimate end.

Both of my long-time readers know about my great affinity for Albert Camus. L'Homme révolté (in English entitled The Rebel) is perhaps the most mature reflection of his philosophy. Camus' thought as expressed in his writing is far from systematic. Any philosophy in our age that seeks to be truthful and, at the same time, speak directly to life can't be systematic because, as experience shows us time and again, human life, my life, in a fragmented world, is not reducible to a formula.

Being a Christian is my metaphysical rebellion against the seeming absurdity of my own existence (Heidegger was wrong: Christians do not have the question, the why-ness, of being all figured out. Even on a Christian view, human existence remains mysterious).

What is the "cash" value of this? It is that if, in the end, this life is all there is and death is truly the end, Christianity should've been true and (despite there being a sense in which this makes no sense) I do not regret striving to live as a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. If Christianity, as such, turns out to be mistaken about who Jesus of Nazareth is/was, it remains true that He really graced the earth and attempted to usher in the only true revolution in human history. This does not make me either a fideist, or an irrationalist, in the least. I affirm that there are very good reasons to both believe in the triune God and the Incarnation of second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. I simply like to think of myself as someone capable of defeasible reasoning, especially when it comes to matters that preclude certainty.

All of this is my lead-up to our Friday traditio, which is The Pogues' "If I Should Fall from Grace with God." Any fall from grace, which is simply what sin is, cannot be attributed to God, whose mercy endures forever, but only to me. The fruit of the Fifth (and final) of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary (i.e., Christ's Crucifixion) is perseverance to the end, which, apart from the gift of faith, is the greatest grace of all. There is a reason, upon entering into His Passion, Jesus said to Peter, James, and John, who could not stay awake and keep watch with Him, "Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:38).

It's coming up threes, boys
Keeps coming up threes, boys
Let them go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Today we observe the event, which happened in time and space, when the Word became flesh in the womb of Miriam of Nazareth. As one might suppose, our liturgical observance of this great mystery takes place nine months to the day before Christmas.

At least when used theologically, the term "mystery" does not mean something that is unknown and utterly unknowable. Rather, it means something we know about, if not completely, because God has revealed it to us. Hence, a mystery is not something that we are unable understand or discuss, "but rather that there is a transcendent aspect to [them] that humans cannot fully grasp" (Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: new Explorations of Theological Interrelationships xxiii).

To gain at least a partial grasp of the transcendent aspect of the mystery we celebrate today we need look no further than St Luke's Gospel:
"Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Luke 1:28-35)
Even though I used this in my reflection for this Solemnity last year, I do not hesitate to invoke it again: "the Incarnational Event of God becoming human… is so earth-shattering that it enacts something akin to the psychoanalytic concept of trauma” on the world (Paul’s New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology, 7).

The Annunciation, by D. Werburg Welch

Our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews not only gives us a deep insight into the reason for the Word becoming flesh, it points us to the trauma of the Cross, that traumatic(/dramatic) event through which God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit, reconciled the world to Himself "once for all" (Heb 10:10), thus showing us Who God is for us contra mundum, but only in order to ultimately be pro mundum.

Another aspect, which emerges from our Hebrews reading, one that should never be lost on us, is how necessary is Jesus' Jewishness. After all, Jesus is not only consubstantial with the Father, but He is also consubstantial with His Blessed Mother.

In his essay "The Son of God Became Human as a Jew," published in the book I previously cited (i.e., Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today), Hans Hermann Henrix pointed out,
to be meaningful, the Incarnation had to be rooted in centuries of preparation. Christ would otherwise have been like meteor that falls by chance to the earth and is devoid of any connection with human history (117)
There is but one covenant between God and humanity, which, through Christ, is extended to all in fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham in the immediate aftermath of the incident on Mount Moriah, where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his only son, Issac, at God's command: "I will bless you and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants will take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing, because you obeyed my command" (Gen 22:17-18).

So today, like the Archangel Gabriel in the presence of the young Miriam, who was, for reasons known to God alone, "filled with grace" "from the first moment of her conception," we bow before the great mystery of the Word made flesh for us.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Beginning anew each day is grace

C.S. Lewis is probably second only to G.K. Chesterton as the most-quoted English-speaking Christian writer. There is one quote of Lewis', from his Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, that, until very recently, I found discouraging and even, at times, depressing: "Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done," even if the necessity of so-doing was not lost on me entirely.

In a short time, however, I have gone from finding this discouraging to seeing it as quite hopeful. This realization came about in the best possible way- via experience. You see, there are days when I rely on Christ most heavily, from before my feet hit the floor in the morning until my head hits my pillow at night. I can't say these days are always "the best" days when viewed through the lens of everyday, worldly existence, but these are days when I don't let circumstances dictate my behavior nor compromise my peace and happiness. There are other days, which usually begin after a period of time during which I have relied on God quite heavily, where I convince myself that my need is not that great. In all honesty, I might be fine for a day or two living that way.

There comes a point during these days when I don't rely on God where I notice a separation, begin to feel, not a distance, but my tendency to ignore Him and think, "What am I doing?," but then persist in going my own way. These are dangerous days.

In the Book of Lamentations we read: "The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; They are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness" (Lam 3:22-23). The third chapter of Lamentations, where these verses are found, unlike the first two, focuses on individual, or personal, suffering. I find a part of the footnote from New American Bible Revised Edition that pertains to these verses very relevant- "In the midst of a description of suffering, the speaker offers this brief but compelling statement of hope in God’s ultimate mercy."

God is faithful, I am not. This is why I have to rely on Him each day as if nothing had yet been done. Yes, it is very often the case that I am slow to understand, but, for me, it's important to verify these things in reality through experience,

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Third Scrutiny: "Take away the stone"

Readings: Ezk 37:12-14; Ps 130:1-8; Rom 8:8-11; John 11:1-45

In the seemingly hectic swirl that ensued upon the Lord learning of the death of His friend Lazarus, at which news "Jesus wept" (John 11:35), He told Martha, Lazarus' sister, the most fundamental truth of the Christian faith: "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25-26a). He follows this revelation by asking her, "Do you believe this?" My dear Elect, this is the question Jesus asks you today.

Beliefs are strange things. We all have well-founded beliefs and we all have unfounded beliefs. Belief does not preclude doubt. In fact, dealing with doubts is indispensable for clarifying what we believe and what we ultimately cannot accept as true. There is probably no greater uncertainty we face than contemplating resurrection and life eternal when faced with the death of someone dear to us, or even when we engage in momento mori- remembering our own death. Sure, living forever sounds great, but is it true? Can it be possible, or is it merely a desperate wish? Woody Allen expressed this deepest of human longings well when he said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."

"Do you believe this?" This is the same question posed in our first reading from Ezekiel, the immediate context of which is Israel's return from exile. But how anyone and everyone comes to know that God is LORD is through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. God's Lordship is made manifest by Christ's victory over death, which is the power that opens graves and has us rise from them (Ezk 37:13), not merely metaphorically, but really and truly. It is easy, as Christians, to become so numbed to this reality, this truth, that we lose sight of its audaciousness.

Jesus raising Lazarus, by James Tissot

In our second reading from St Paul's magisterial Letter to the Romans, all of this is fleshed out (pardon my pun) for us more fully:
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you (Rom 8:11)
My dear Elect you are preparing for Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. These are the means Christ has instituted (and the reason He established His Church) to impart to you, or, turning to a term now popular in cooking, "infuse" into you, His Holy Spirit, Who is also the Spirit of the Father. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the way Jesus Christ remains present, not just to you, but in you.

Being infused with the Holy Spirit means being filled with new life, which is life eternal. Eternal life is not that life that begins after mortal death. Rather, it is the life each of us is given when we are reborn in Baptism. A few chapters earlier in Romans, in the midst of a rather complicated exposition on sin and grace, the apostle asks, "[A]re you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life" (Rom 6:2-3).

Don't drive the Spirit out by continuing to live according to the flesh, which, like St Paul, we must distinguish from the body; living according to the Spirit is something we do now and, as the result of Christ's resurrection, forever with our bodies. This determination to cooperate with God's grace, which builds on our nature, is sung about by Old Crow Medicine Show in their song "Darius Rucker," which is about a deep longing for home:
Oh, north country winters keep a-getting me down
Lost my money playing poker so I had to leave town
But I ain't turning back to living that old life no more
How a wish turns into a hope, an unfounded belief into a well-founded one, is through experience, by means of an event that becomes an encounter. What does this mean? I readily admit that, because it's a mystery, it is not possible to explain it completely using words. Pope Benedict, towards the beginning of his first encyclical letter Deus caritas est, with his characteristic clarity, in my view, does about as good a job describing this using words as anyone can: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (par 1).

Dear Elect, today, in preparation for your re-birth in Baptism, Jesus directs you to "Take away the stone" from your hearts so that He can raise you to new life. Arise and turn your face towards home.

Friday, March 20, 2015

"Only God can change our minds"

With no commentary and no explanation, except what you can read on their website, which begins with "Marriage is tough," Casting Crowns' "Broken Together" is the Καθολικός διάκονος traditio for this Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent:

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and Ill bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we'll last forever is broken together

Monday, March 16, 2015

In honor of St Patrick

Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day. Sadly, here in the United States we typically celebrate it as a bacchanalia. Let's not forget, the most important fact about Patrick: his great and deep love for Jesus Christ, which he demonstrated by spending his life as a missionary sharing Christ in the land and with the very people who took him captive in his youth.

Without a doubt, Patrick is the most well-known of the great Celtic saints. Patrick, who was a deacon's son, was not a native of Ireland. He first went to Ireland as a slave and later returned as a missionary. He was most likely a native Welsh-speaker. He is truly a pan-Celtic figure.

Given the tendency to caricature being Irish as being a hopeless, piss-pants, foul-mouthed drunk, I think writing about another great Irish Christian on this occasion is very appropriate: Venerable Matt Talbot. He lived from 1856 to 1925. This year is the 90th anniversary of his death.

By the time he was 13, Matt had a serious drinking problem and was considered by many to be a hopeless alcoholic. Having spent much of his young life drinking heavily, after taking a 90 day pledge not to drink in 1884, Matt remained sober for the rest of his life. By all accounts it seems that his first seven years sober were especially difficult for him.

Statue of Venerable Matt Talbot in Dublin

Matt Talbot was one person Pope St John Paul II very much wanted to canonize. No doubt Matt's intercession has resulted in many miracles among men and women struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction, enough to warrant him being a saint. To many he is a saint. In my view, it's really the popular devotion, not the canonical process, that matters. I urge you to go to his website, run by the Archdiocese of Dublin. When you do so, you'll read this on the first page: "Today we live in an age of addictions more sophisticated perhaps than those of Matt's day, addictions to substances such as alcohol and other drugs soft or hard, prescription or illegal, addictions to gambling, pornography and the internet, addictions to work, professional advancement, sex, money and power. All these have the ability to destroy our lives and like demons even our very souls as well." Forget about driving the snakes out of Ireland (there were never any there to begin with), what about the demons in your soul, the ones that haunt you?

Below is the official prayer for Matt Talbot's canonization:
O Jesus, true friend of the humble worker, Who hast given us in Thy servant, Matthew, a wonderful example of Victory over vice, a model of penance and love for Thy Holy Eucharist, grant, we beseech Thee, that we Thy servants may overcome all our wicked passions and sanctify our lives with penance and love like his.

And if it be in accordance with Thine adorable designs that Thy pious servant should be glorified by the Church, deign to manifest by Thy heavenly favors the power he enjoys in Thy sight, Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen. 100 day's Indulgence each time. 15 June 1931
By all means celebrate St Patrick's Day, just don't forget Who it is about. To help you, here's a treat from The Chieftans:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
St Joseph, pray for us
St Patrick, pray for us
Venerable Matt Talbot, pray for us
All holy men and women, pray for us

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A note on 1 Samuel 16

Initially I included this as a parenthetical aside in my reflection on the Sunday readings for the Second Scrutiny, but it detracted from the message I was trying to convey. Nonetheless, I think it's important to note that Saul, like David after him, was anointed king of Israel by the prophet Samuel (see 1 Samuel 9).

Samuel anointed David king of Israel due to Saul's disobedience (see 1 Samuel 15). Prior to anointing Saul as the first king of Israel, Samuel rebuked the Israelites for wanting a human king like the surrounding peoples, instead of being content with having the LORD as their king (see 1 Samuel 8). Without a doubt there is a lot going on in all this both historically and politically. It is rather Shakesperian.

King Saul attacks David, by "Guercino" Gianfrancesco Barbieri

This prophetic outburst of Samuel highlights a tension in ancient Israel, one that is best brought into relief by reading 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings- 4 installments of the same history- over and against 1-2 Chronicles. The work of Margaret Baker is most valuable in this regard. A great starting point is her short book Temple Theology: An Introduction.

King Saul was a member of the tribe of Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:1). Much later God would call another Benjaminite named Saul, better known as Paul, which was likely his Roman name, as apostle to Gentiles (Phil 3:5).