2 Samuel 24:2.8-17
King David said to Joab and to the senior army officers who were with him, ‘Now go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and take a census of the people; I wish to know the size of the population.’ Having covered the whole country, they returned to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Joab gave the king the figures for the census of the people; Israel numbered eight hundred thousand armed men capable of drawing sword, and Judah five hundred thousand men.
But afterwards David’s heart misgave him for having taken a census of the people. ‘I have committed a grave sin’ David said to the Lord. ‘But now, Lord, I beg you to forgive your servant for this fault. I have been very foolish.’ But when David got up next morning, the following message had come from the Lord to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, ‘Go and say to David, “the Lord says this: I offer you three things; choose one of them for me to do to you.”’
So Gad went to David and told him. ‘Are three years of famine to come on you in your country’ he said ‘or will you flee for three months before your pursuing enemy, or would you rather have three days’ pestilence in your country? Now think, and decide how I am to answer him who sends me.’ David said to Gad, This is a hard choice. But let us rather fall into the power of the Lord, since his mercy is great, and not into the power of men.’ So David chose pestilence.
It was the time of the wheat harvest. The Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning till the time appointed and plague ravaged the people, and from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of them died. The angel stretched out his hand towards Jerusalem to destroy it, but the Lord thought better of this evil, and he said to the angel who was destroying the people, ‘Enough! Now withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was beside the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. “When David saw the angel who was ravaging the people, he spoke to the Lord. ‘It was I who sinned;’ he said ‘I who did this wicked thing. But these, this flock, what have they done? Let your hand lie heavy on me then, and on my family.’
Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
He was amazed at their lack of faith
I am currently working on a project to show that faith and business can and should mix. When I ask Catholic business people about this, their initial reaction often is, “But I’m not very holy”. I tell them that I am not interested in how they live their faith on Sundays; I’m interested in how they live their faith on the rest of the weekdays. There are people who believe that faith and business should not mix. Such beliefs do not come from Church teachings.
Today’s readings tell us about the lack of faith. In the first reading, David tasked his army commander Joab to take a census of the number of men in his country with the ability to go to war. It is a lack of faith in God because David chose to rely on his strength of numbers and tactics, rather than to trust that God will lead him to victory. When God gave him a choice for his consequences, David chose to let his people take the fall instead, to the point that David eventually realised that since it was his folly, it should be he that suffers the consequences.
In the gospel reading, the lack of the faith came from the people from Jesus’ hometown. They did not believe that Jesus had the power to heal, and chose to rely on themselves. In the past when I read this passage, I used to think that Jesus laid hands on people but could not cure them. Today, when read in conjunction with the first reading, I believe it’s more likely the case that sick people didn’t even approach Jesus, choosing to believe in their own remedies. That was why few people were healed. Only those who approached Jesus in faith were healed.
Like David, the people who chose to rely on themselves rather than on God, also suffered consequences for their actions. We are not told what consequences they are, but we can reasonably conclude that their illnesses continued to plague them.
Most of us spend at least a third of our adult life at work. If faith and business should not mix, then it makes our faith irrelevant to a huge portion of life. In fact, our Catholic faith teaches us that our faith must go hand in hand with our work:
“One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives… The Christian who shirks his temporal duties shirks his duties towards his neighbor, neglects God himself, and endangers his eternal salvation. Let Christians follow the example of Christ who worked as a craftsman; let them be proud of the opportunity to carry out their earthly activity in such a way as to integrate human, domestic, professional, scientific and technical enterprises with religious values, under whose supreme direction all things are ordered to the glory of God.” – Second Vatican Council, GaudiumetSpes
Today, let us take some time to reflect on how we live out our faith at work. And, if you are a Catholic business owner, I’d like to hear from you.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)
Prayer: We ask the Lord to bless us as we go about our business.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for giving us work.