Memory of the Church

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.
.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Samuel 4,1-11

and, for all Israel, the word of Samuel was as the word of Yahweh; since Eli was very old and his sons persisted in their wicked behaviour towards Yahweh. It happened at that time that the Philistines mustered to make war on Israel and Israel went out to meet them in war, pitching camp near Ebenezer while the Philistines pitched camp at Aphek. The Philistines drew up their battle-line against Israel, the fighting was fierce, and Israel was beaten by the Philistines: about four thousand men in their ranks were killed on the field of battle. When the troops returned to camp, the elders of Israel said, 'Why has Yahweh caused us to be beaten by the Philistines today? Let us fetch the ark of our God from Shiloh so that, when it goes with us, it may save us from the clutches of our enemies.' So the troops sent to Shiloh and brought away the ark of Yahweh Sabaoth enthroned on the winged creatures; the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, came with the ark. When the ark of Yahweh arrived in the camp, all Israel raised a great war cry so that the earth resounded. When the Philistines heard the noise of the war cry, they said, 'What can this great war cry in the Hebrew camp mean?' And they realised that the ark of Yahweh had come into the camp. At this, the Philistines were afraid; for they said, 'God has come into the camp. Disaster!' they said. 'For nothing like this has ever happened before. Disaster! Who will rescue us from the clutches of this mighty God? This was the God who struck down Egypt with every kind of misfortune in the desert. But take courage and be men, Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been slaves to you. Be men and fight.' So the Philistines gave battle and Israel was defeated, each man fleeing to his tent. The slaughter was very great: on the Israelite side, thirty thousand foot soldiers fell. The ark of God was captured too, and Hophni and Phinehas the two sons of Eli died.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This passage talks about the first clash between the Israelites and the Philistines, the true owners of the land. The elders of Isarel understand that their defeat is due to the absence of the ark among the people. When the people see the ark coming back among them they cry out of enthusiasm so loud that the Philistines hear their cries and begin to worry. They fear the God of Israel. They do not know God's name, but they feel that his power now dwells in Israel and is against them. The Philistines correctly interpret the history and the faith of Israel as they fearfully remembered what happened to the Egyptians. However, the Philistines do not surrender. On the contrary, the fear of being submitted by the Israelites makes them regain their courage and boldness. They engage in battle and win a second time. Even the ark, in which Israel again placed its trust and before which the Philistines trembled with fear, could not save Israel from defeat. The entire Scripture shows that God wants to be loved and not simply obeyed to or even worse used to one's goals. The ark's capture and the death of Eli's two sons, in charge of carrying the ark, reveal that an outward allegiance to the Lord is not enough if one's heart and behaviour are distant from the Law. If the heart is absent, then the presence or absence of the ark does not make any difference: Israel is still defeated. A bond of love, even more than legal observances and ritual practices, substantiates Biblical faith. Yes, the ark is the place of God's presence, but a relationship like sons and daughters with the Lord is what is required of the faithful, which the ark favours, but cannot replace.