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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Samuel 9,1-4.17-19.26; 10,1

Among the men of Benjamin was a man called Kish son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah; a Benjaminite and a person of rank. He had a son called Saul, a handsome man in the prime of life. Of all the Israelites there was no one more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders taller than anyone else. Now since the donkeys belonging to Kish, Saul's father, had strayed, Kish said to his son Saul, 'My son, take one of the servants with you and be off; go and look for the donkeys.' They went through the highlands of Ephraim, they went through the territory of Shalishah, and did not find them; they went through the territory of Shaalim but they were not there; they went through the territory of Benjamin and did not find them. When Samuel saw Saul, Yahweh told him, 'That is the man of whom I said to you, "He is to govern my people." ' Saul accosted Samuel in the gateway and said, 'Tell me, please, where the seer's house is.' Samuel replied to Saul, 'I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place. You must eat with me today. Tomorrow, when I let you go, I shall tell you whatever is on your mind. At dawn, Samuel called to Saul on the roof, 'Get up, and I shall send you on your way.' Saul got up, and Samuel and he went outside together. Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on Saul's head; he then kissed him and said, 'Has not Yahweh anointed you as leader of his people Israel? You are the man who is to govern Yahweh's people and save them from the power of the enemies surrounding them. The sign for you that Yahweh has anointed you as prince of his heritage is this:


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This passage describes how Saul is chosen and anointed king. The text does not reveal any criticism of monarchy as that of Samuel in the previous chapter. What seems clear, however, is that the foundation of the monarchy comes from on high, and Saul’s authority has its roots only in the will and design of God. The way the monarchy begins is almost ironic. Indeed it is difficult to think that the monarchy begins with the loss of three donkeys. Saul does not seek out Samuel; he does not even know him. Other people (first the servant and then the young women from the country) direct him to Samuel. Before they meet, the narrator recalls God’s revelation to Samuel: "Tomorrow…I will send to you a man…and you shall anoint him…over my people…He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their outcry has come to me" (v. 16). Once again it is God who takes the initiative. If previously God had decided not to pay anymore attention to the cries of his people, he now says to Samuel, "Their outcry has come to me." God allows his people to move him deeply, especially when they are in distress. And he intervenes by pulling the strings. Typically, minor events and insignificant people are involved from whom one would not expect a divine intervention. In truth, this is precisely how the Lord works to show that the work is his, completely his. Everything seemed casual: the loss of the donkeys, the futile search, and then the encounter with Samuel. The choice for Saul also follows the same logic. Upon hearing the news from Samuel, Saul is surprised and objects: "I am only a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel, and my family is the humblest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin. Why then have you spoken to me in this way?"(V.21). But this is God acting. God warned Samuel the day before. And in the meeting with Saul the investiture takes place. The ritual is not esoteric or mysterious. Rather, s in the human encounter, in people speaking directly with one another, God’s plan is realized. Not by chance does the sacred author, with great attention to detail, recount the meeting between the two men. Saul does not know Samuel, nor does he go to great lengths to find him. He ascertains, from some young women and then a stranger he meets on the road, that Samuel is not a mere "soothsayer," but a prophet, a man of God. Samuel did not know Saul either; but he relies on the Lord who will indicate the one he elected. A direct, human encounter between the two is what is necessary. They need to speak, to clear things up. Saul looks for his lost donkeys and goes to a prophet; he also wants to pay him for his help and instead is welcomed at a banquet and invited to spend the night in the country; he wants news about his donkeys and is assured that he will be told all that is on his mind; he does not have anything (the servant has the money) but is told that "what is most precious" in Israel belongs to him and his family. In his conversation with Samuel, Saul asks how is it that "what is most precious" in Israel belongs to him, a member of the smallest tribe and of the least important family of that tribe. The question does not get a response, but Samuel makes him sit at the first place in the banquet: "So Saul ate with Samuel that day." In that dinner around the table they establish bonds of love and friendship. Often in Scripture to be together at table means to form a beautiful and strong friendship. This seems to be the case between Samuel and Saul. Eventually the two entertain each other after dinner on the terrace. Friendship in the Bible is part of the faith of believers or better, a way to live their faith with God and with one another.

Sunday Vigil