Feb 1, 2012

Such a choice!

"God says, I offer you three alternatives . . ."

"Let’s see, door number 1, door number 2, or door number 3?” That line from a popular TV game show presented a choice to contestants who would choose to open one of the doors behind which was some sort of fabulous prize.  A new car?  A trip to Hawaii? Maybe something less expensive but a prize nonetheless. Obviously, the contestant would hope to win the big one but either way, they still came back with something.

It seems in this Wednesday’s first reading from the Book of Samuel, that God may be asking the same of King David.  It’s a bit of a difference, however.  David recognizes, “I have sinned grievously in what I have done . . .” It seems his sin was to take a census of all the tribes in Israel in order to prepare for battle. Somehow, David recognizes this as a great offense and pleads that God forgive his sin of calculation for war and doubt that God would prevail.  

God answers by offering David three choices.  “Choose one of them,” God says through the prophet Gad, “and I will inflict it on you.” A three year famine, to flee your enemy for three months while he pursues you, or three day’s pestilence on your land? Not exactly a new car!
David may have been tempted to ask, “Is there a door number 4 available?”  But, it seems the King chooses the pestilence.  At least God is merciful and it may be better to fall by his hand rather than the “hand of man” David figures.  Behind it all, David acknowledges what he has always known, that God would rather inflict mercy and forgiveness rather than vengeance.

The turn of events at the end of the passage is striking. The angel of God is about to strike innocent people in Jerusalem and destroy that holy city, then God himself “regretted the calamity.” It seems, he may have overacted to the sin of David and allowed his divine temper to get out of control. David pleads with God and essentially appeals to his sense of mercy saying, “It is I who have sinned . . . these are sheep; what have they done?” God relents.
What sort of choices has God offered to you? These Old Testament passages on the nearly humanized nature of God are curious as we Christians bear a less vengeful view as we see in Jesus. Yet this relationship with David, as it was with Abraham and Moses, reveal God’s intimacy with humanity.  God walks with Abraham in conversation, he chooses Moses to lead his people through the desert and listens to Moses pleading on behalf of those people, and here King David recognizes his own inherent human weakness and foolish behavior at times, then appeals to God in the most intimate way. There is a personal closeness with God that is thought provoking.

Life offers us many choices.  Every day we are presented with situations, events, people in our life, personal questions that may indeed be revealing God’s plan to us.  Every day we are called to live a holy life and to witness to our faith. Sometimes God may say to us, “Eat blue cheese,” or other times life may present a more palatable choice. 
Either way, the daily choices in life may be offered to us for our benefit although we may see them as otherwise.  How willing am I to embrace the cross as a Christian?  Do I always believe that life should be hearts and flowers?  When something unpleasant comes my way or I am presented with a choice that doesn’t exactly fit in to my personal plan, how willing am I to open that door?

Blessed Pope John Paul II once said, “Nothing happens by chance.  What may seem to us as a random event, really is a part of God’s overall divine plan that we simply don’t understand fully at this time.” For a man who was up against a formidable enemy throughout his ministry in Poland and then as Pope on the world stage, those words are born of great faith and wisdom.
I’m not sure I would choose the pestilence but in the end, it may be the best choice after all. 

Something to think about that may indeed strengthen our faith and trust in God – and that is exactly what’s behind door number 4.