2 Samuel 12:1-7, 10-17
King David had slept with – and impregnated – Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite; to hide what he had done, he encouraged Uriah to sleep with his wife after returning from the battlefield; frustrated, he then arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle. The truth became known, and we witness the prophet Nathan provoking the king’s repentance by demonstrating his hypocritical reaction to the story of the poor man and the ewe lamb. This passage manifests the crucial role of the prophets of Israel in witnessing to the Lord as a God of justice and compassion. It also illustrates the complexity of the moral life: David’s reaction to the story of the poor man and the ewe lamb shows that he still had moral sensitivity, and his repentance in word and deed reveals that he was open to the prophet’s words and to divine forgiveness. Psalm 51 expresses the theme of repentance and divine forgiveness in a beautifully poetic way. It affirms that the moral life is based in prayer, in openness to the Holy Spirit; the Psalmist prays for a ‘clean heart’, the seat of our desires and motivations. The Gospel passage is a step in Mark’s Gospel towards the disciples’ recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God; like the Creator, he calms the storm, and this provokes the disciples’ question, ‘Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?’, a question that will be answered in Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi in Mark 8.
Robert Gascoigne is a parishioner at St Brigid’s, Marrickville. He is a theologian who taught for many years at the Australian Catholic University.