David, the biblical superhero Print E-mail
Sunday scripture column

Jem Sullivan

Sunday, Feb. 24


1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13
1 Cor 15:45-49
Lk 6:27-38

Superheroes never go out of style. There's something in us, young and old, that enjoys a good superhero tale. A typical superhero story includes a villain that everyone loves to hate.

Soon the bad guy and his accomplices create all kinds of mayhem until they manage to bring the world to the brink of disaster. This turmoil creates the ripe condition for the superhero to come to the rescue.

Watching a superhero overpower a particular face and force of evil is deeply reassuring, even when we know the characters and situations are fictional.

In today's first reading, we have a different kind of superhero story. We meet David, a biblical superhero, who challenges our usual notions of retaliation, revenge, and payback for wrongdoing.

We are invited to move beyond the typical superhero equation of grievance equals retribution. We are called to see our world in the light of God's mercy and divine vindication.

The dramatic story focuses on the second opportunity given to David to right the wrong done to him by King Saul, who had attempted to murder him.

When we read that David went in search of Saul, we rightly imagine that revenge was his motive. When David eventually finds Saul, we fully expect their encounter to end in the destruction of one of them.

The story moves in a different direction, indicating a deeper biblical truth. David finds Saul asleep with his spear in the ground above his head and his bodyguards in a deep slumber.

Abish says to David, "God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day. Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear."

In a superhero story, this would be the ideal moment for revenge. Instead, David reveals a righteousness that comes from being in a right relationship with God. David chooses to spare Saul's life in full measure.

David was at the crossroads where we sometimes find ourselves -- and like David -- we can choose to trust in God. David chose the truth, "the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

Jem Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.