Posted by: fvbcdm | January 14, 2013

Feast of Saint Sava (14 Jan 2013)

In the first reading at Mass today, a man by the name of Elkanah appears; he will become the father of the prophet Samuel. He reminds me of someone in my family who died over thirty years ago. The Bible story is that Elkanah had two wives, as was allowed by God in those days—a thousand years before Christ. But neither of them had any children, which was a shameful state for a woman to be in. It never seems to have occurred to anyone that it might have been the fault of the man, whom we would now call sterile, rather than the woman, whom they called barren. In any case, his wife Hannah used to weep and grieve because she was childless. And Elkanah scolds her by saying:  “Hannah, why do you weep? … why do you grieve? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” We can laugh at questions like that because we are three thousand years removed from the man who could ask them. But you can be sure that Hannah didn’t find his questions funny. Only a proud, arrogant man could ask questions like that. To tell a woman who very much wanted children but didn’t have any, that he was better than ten sons shows a very exalted opinion of himself. The answer that Hannah could have given to his rhetorical questions is: “NO! You are not better than ten sons! If you were, I wouldn’t be crying and grieving.”

We can be pretty sure that Elkanah was a hard man to live with. Pride and arrogance lead to contempt for others and a highly exaggerated opinion of one’s own excellence. And that makes for a mean, cruel, unpleasant disposition. The person in my family who was that kind of individual made life for his wife and children very difficult indeed. In fact, his behavior toward his children caused emotional problems that remained with them all their lives. We all have our strengths and good qualities. But sadly, we also have our weaknesses and our shortcomings. They are very obvious to others, even if we are too fond of ourselves to notice, admit, or correct them. This is why spiritual writers have always highly recommended the examination of conscience. It is one way to come to know us as we really are. And in religious life, we have superiors to correct us and point out our mistakes or faulty attitudes. Let us always live with the realization that we are far from perfect, and that others see undesirable qualities in us. This makes for humility, which is absolutely necessary for any advancement in our spiritual lives. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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