Story about David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 is one of the great accounts
in the Bible of the discovery of Spirit, of the inner energy that
is essential for life.
Philistine army took up its position on one hill while the Israelites,
led by Saul, were on another, with a valley separating the two forces.
Then a champion called Goliath came out from the Philistine camp.
He was three meters tall. His armor was made of bronze, his helmet
and coat weighed sixty kilos. His shield bearer went before him. He
stood in front of the Israelites and shouted, "Choose a man from
among you to challenge me. If he fights better and kills me, we shall
be subject to you: but if I overpower him and kill him, you shall
be subject to us." When they heard this Saul and his men were
greatly challenged. Every day for forty days the Philistine came out
to throw his challenge but no one had the courage or confidence to
pick it up.
the son of Jesse, had three brothers in the Israelite army. He was
the youngest son who stayed behind to tend his father's sheep. One
day Jesse sent him to bring food to his brothers who were at the battle
line. While there he heard the Philistine's challenge. David said
to Saul, "Let no one be discouraged because of this Philistine,
for your servant will engage him in battle." Saul told David,
"You cannot fight him; you are still young whereas this man has
been a warrior from his youth." But David insisted and Saul consented.
fitted his armor on David but the boy could not even walk wearing
it. As he was not accustomed to heavy armor he took it off. Instead
he took five smooth stones from the brook and with his sling shot
in his hand, drew near to the Philistine. Seeing that David was only
a boy, Goliath despised and cursed him. But David said, "You
have come against me with sword, spear and javelin but I come against
you with Yahweh. The people gathered here know that Yahweh does not
save by sword and spear." As the Philistine move to attack him,
David took a stone and slung it, hitting Goliath in the forehead.
happened on Pentecost was similar to what happened in the battle between
Goliath and David. The disciples of Jesus were looking for an external
victory. They wanted Jesus to drive out the Roman occupying power
and take over political supremacy. All they could see was external.
But at Pentecost they became aware that the power was within, that
the message of Christ was about internal attitude, it was about uniting
and removing barriers of language and race and domination.
of all the attitudes demanded by the presence of the Spirit, forgiveness
holds pride of place. John the Evangelist reports the coming of the
Spirit as happening on Easter Sunday evening. Jesus first tells the
disciples to go on mission: "As the Father sent me, so am I sending
you." Then he gives them the Holy Spirit. The only gift of the
Spirit that he refers to is the gift of forgiving. "When you
forgive sins they are forgiven; when you hold them back they are held
back." Forgiveness is taking off the armor that weighs us down.
The Spirit is given to enable us to do this because we cannot forgive
by our own power. The power of forgiveness was given by Christ to
all on this occasion. It is a misreading of the text to say it was
given only to priests in the confessional.
fact that Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit to the Church and to
the temple of each of our hearts, is bound up with forgiveness became
very clear to me a few years ago. My parishioner, Rex Cruz, died in
a joy killing when he was only 16 years old. The perpetrators were
caught and given long jail sentences. Every month Mrs. Cruz would
have mass said on the date of his death. I notice that she continued
to wear black even after the traditional year of mourning had expired.
One day I spoke to her and said, "You know, Mrs. Cruz, you will
never be free until you do something for the men who killed your son."
She looked at me with indignation and said, "Never! My only consolation
now is that those men are in jail and may they rot there till death
and burn in hell for ever!" I said to her, "I appreciate
how you feel but give some thought sometime to what I have said."
Some months later she turned up in the office smiling and colorfully
dressed. She called me and said, "Father, I have something to
tell you! Yesterday I wrote a letter to the Board of Pardons and Parole
asking clemency for those who killed my son. You know, Father, when
I mailed that letter I myself was released from prison!"
the coming of the Spirit, is about inner power and most often this
inner power is released when we forgive.