Saul was Israel's first king, and the Israelite David, hero of Saul's war against the Philistines, became Saul's rival. This incident occurs during Saul's pursuit of David. David calls Saul "the Lord's anointed," because anointing was the ceremony that had made Saul king.
After Paul's discussion of the resurrection, that we heard last week, Paul does a long discussion of the manner of the resurrection, and the differences between earthly and spiritual bodies. Now he turns to the differences between Adam, the first man, and Christ whom he calls the last man, and how we are like each.
Jesus teaches his followers a morality more demanding than the one prevailing in his day.
Our Liturgical Setting: Today's gospel, Luke 6:27-38, gives us Jesus' revolutionary moral teaching about human relationships. He tells us not to calculate what we have to gain in every human encounter, but what we have to give. He orders us to go so far as to love our enemies, and to be as merciful as God our Father is merciful. The first reading gives us a vivid example of forbearance and mercy from the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Historical Background: The ancient Israelites were governed first by Moses, then by a long line of judges. They maintained their differences from their pagan neighbors in several ways, principally by avoiding the institution of kingship. But envy of their neighbors overcame this principled stance, and the Israelites finally prevailed on their last Judge, Samuel, to anoint a king for them. See 1 Samuel:8. The king was Saul. In Saul's army, the youth David won the famous victory over Goliath, and won thereby the admiration of the people and the envy of king Saul. Read the dramatic story at length in 1 Samuel, chapters 9-31. Deep into that story, David, who by now has a considerable following and is in open rebellion against Saul, has a chance to kill Saul. But he doesn't do it, out of respect for the anointing Saul has received as king.
Your Proclamation: Briefly set this scene for your hearers, if the presider has not already done so, by reading that "Before the first reading" instruction, above.
Then start the ritual introduction, "A reading from the First Book of Samuel." The scene is still going to be hard for your hearers to visualize, so help them by emphasizing, in the second sentence, the words by night and Saul lying asleep. Say Abishai's (AB-i-shy) words in a whisper. Then emphasize the word anointed in David's reply.
In the last paragraph, imitate David's taunting shout, and emphasize again his reverence for the anointed of the Lord.
The Theological Background: In our week-by-week exploration through 1 Corinthians, we're still reading Saint Paul's doctrine of the resurrection. Here he returns to the contrasts between Christ, "the last Adam," and the original Adam. (For more on this contrast, see all of 1 Corinthians 15, or at least verses 20-28, lines which come between last Sunday's selection and today's.)
After last week's passage about the resurrection, Paul addresses the questions, "How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come?" (1 Cor 15:35, translation of The New Jerusalem Bible. This leads him to distinguish among kinds of flesh, the kinds of "splendour" that they enjoy, and the "natural body" versus the "spiritual body." Naming these contrasts lets him move into the one addressed in today's passage, the differences between Adam and Christ (the last Adam), and what we inherit from each.
Your Proclamation: As lector, your responsibility is to be sure the assembly hears these contrasts clearly. Your hearers should know they take something from each Adam, and should know the difference. You can help by reading a little more slowly, and with a little more contrast in your voice, than seems "natural."
The relationship of Saul and David was complicated, and today's first reading reports just a fraction of their conflicts. At the Pitts Library of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., they've digitized the art-works in David Martin's Dutch-language History of the Old and New Testaments (Amsterdam, 1700). Search the linked page for David or Saul.
The picture borrowed here shows David's wife Michal (who is also Saul's daughter) helping David escape her father's wrath. Read more in 1 Samuel, particularly chapter 19. It's in the Bible, but not in the lectionary.
This page updated January 22, 2019