Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saul's Daughter, David's Wife - a pawn in the hands of men

King Saul’s daughter, Michal, didn’t start out with a bad attitude. It was more like getting a “bad attitude” starter kit from her father, which he watered and tended until it could thrive on its own.

It’s easy to see what went wrong. When King Saul realized Michal was in love with David, he thought he could work it to his advantage. A marriage between the two would tie David to him more closely. And maybe, if Saul was lucky, David would die trying to collect the 100 Philistine foreskins he’d demanded for Michal’s hand in marriage.

But, as before, God’s hand of protection was upon the young man, and David returned with twice the requisite foreskins.

Michal was a happy bride. She even covered for David when her father became homicidally jealous and made plans to kill David. But that’s where Michal’s moral fiber begins to break down. The first thing she does after David escapes is lie to her father. He said he’d kill me if I didn’t let him leave. Don’t blame me, Father.

After David narrowly escapes Saul’s clutches, King Saul marries Michal off to another man. Maybe she had to go with it. Maybe she felt her father was testing her allegiance. Regardless of the reasons, Michal’s life begins to get more and more tangled.

It’s hard to know what was going on in Michal’s mind at this point, but definitely something snapped. She remarries and starts living life as someone else’s wife. Later, when David gains power, he sends for his wife, Michal, and she returns, reluctantly. In a scene that shows the absurdity of marriage and remarriage, Michal’s new husband follows his wife’s entourage from behind. Crying. Yes, crying.

Michal is tired of being an object in every man’s eyes. There is only one thing she has left to control, her own attitude. And so, she turns into a very bitter woman.

When David celebrates at the return of the Ark of the Covenant, Michal completely scorns him and unleashes her tongue against him. Ridiculing God’s anointed one (King David) is a pretty serious offense. What makes it even worse is that we know she is scorning the holiest thing the Hebrew people had. The Ark that contained the golden jar of manna, the Law of Moses on stone tablets, and Aaron’s staff which had budded.

This Ark, an object no man could touch without paying for it with his life, this gold-covered tabernacle for God’s greatest gifts to the Hebrew people, where the Shekinah glory of God rested, this Ark which prefigures Our Lady, this is the object of her scorn.

Is it any wonder that we, as a society, have difficulty recognizing the holy and sacred in things around us? When we are used and abused, what keeps us from becoming bitter? Don’t we do the same thing? Don’t we redirect our anger and frustration toward God and things that we should hold sacred and holy?

I’ve been there. The mixed messages from those in authority. The marriage gone wrong. The devastation of divorce. My own perception that Catholics make far too much of Mary (the New Ark of the Covenant). Self-righteous. Self-indignant. Self-satisfied.

I know Michal. I have been this woman.

To see the holy, to recognize the sacred once again, it requires a massive amount of grace.

And a little crack in the door to one’s heart.

Let us pray that Our Lady of Grace will look with mercy on those who have been ill-treated, and that little lost daughters will be brought back and given new hearts. May they be given hearts that can love God without bitterness or scorn.


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