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The faith of Samson's mother

Judges 13 and the context

We are right when we complain that we live in bad times if we look at the world today. The Bible has a full understanding for the situation like that. The mother of the famous Samson in the Book of Judges lives in the time of 40 years ongoing oppression by the Philistines.
How many times do we experience ourselves as nameless among the people we live with and in the world around us? We miss recognition of our person and of our deeds. Samson’s mother is a woman with an important role in the Bible – almost like Mother Mary in the New Testament (see the painting: Tintoretto, Annunciation to the wife of Manoah,1555-1558, oil on canvas) – and yet she remains in the background, forgotten and unnoticed also in our spirituality. We do not know her name, the Holy Scripture doesn’t mention it.

The wife of Manoah

In the biblical story she is defined in terms of belonging. She is wife of Manoah (Judges 13:2). It is the relationship to her husband that creates her identity. She reports both times about the angel who came to her (Judges 13:6.10). She has a good husband who prays for both of them; she is present in his prayer: “Teach us, what we are to do!” he says (13:8). Her loyalty makes him follow her when angel appeared second time (13:11) – she is his leader.
Samson’s mother is to compare with Mother Mary because she understands the language of the angel; she is so attentive to the Word of God that she can communicate with him and perceive God’s message.
If we consider that Manoah recognized the angel only after the sacrifice (13:21), it seems that his wife was much quicker because from the beginning, in her first report, she talked already about the “angel of God” (13:6). She is the one giving wise and precise logical interpretation to comfort her scared husband (13:23).
Samson’s mother is in the list of biblical women who don’t have children – together with Sarah, Hannah and Elisabeth. This is their painful disadvantage which is for the Bible not kept in the secrecy. God’s messenger is immediately referring to it and this is where the work of God begins for Samson’s mother (Judges 13:3).

A fruitful spirituality

She is a woman who is invited to watch and keep guard about her nourishment (13:4). It is important what it is that will nourish her. The ancient and proven spiritual experience tells us how decisive it is what the food for our souls is. In Samson’s history this is a contrast to the way of seducing and driving him crazy which he will twice experience (“coax your husband!” Judges 14:15; 16:5). Samson’s mother remains sober and wise.
Her unity with Manoah is constant: They are together for the sacrifice (13:19). They are together when Samson is telling them about his first love (14:2) and when he brings honey (14:9). She is with her husband also when familiar confidence begins to fail: Samson does not tell them about the mighty deed of the Spirit (14:6) and where he had the honey from (14:9). He does not reveal to his father and his mother the solution for the riddle (14:16) which he will at last tell his crying wife (14:17).
The unity of Samson’s mother with her husband is a strong contrast to the seducing, false way of Delilah, who is three times pretending and calling him to trust her, while in fact she is working for her bosses and is looking for her reward (“Please tell me!” 16:6.10.13).

Mother until the end

Samson’s mother is similar to Mother Mary because she has to keep the memory of the angel and live out of it. The Scripture says: “the angel of the Lord did not appear again” (Judges 13:21) – so she had to “treasure these words and ponder them in her heart.”(Luke 2:19).
The biblical story of Samson does not explicitly mention the further role of his mother, but we can reasonable try to understand how her maternal heart feels when her son is following the judgment of his eyes (14:3 “she pleases me” in Hebrew “she is right in my eyes”) and when he finally falls as victim. What a sword pierced her own soul when she witnessed that he, who was meant to “begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5), actually causes their attack (15:9)!
There is yet a great faith of this good mother, which – as it seems – makes wonder. When she reported about the first words of the angel and Samson’s special dedication to God she added “to the day of his death” (Judges 13:17). And it will be exactly on the day of his death that Samson makes final conversion. He is praying, he is for the first time mentioning God’s holy name: “Yahweh” (Judges 16:28). With his death Samson will shatter the fundaments of the enemy’s house; his death will bring greater victory than his life (16:30).

Fr. Niko Bilić, S.J.

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N. Bilic SJWelcome to AMDG! – AMDG is the latin abbreviation for “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam” meaning: to the greater glory of God. It gives a synthesis to the fundamental principle of the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. The principle points out that the human being has in the world exalted mission to praise God and we are obliged to go ever further, leaving behind sinful desires, not looking not our own glory and discovering God who is ever greater.

This web-site in Croatian language is designed mainly for the lectures of dr. N. Bilić, and for the spiritual program around our Faculty. At the same time this is the homepage of Fr. Bilić. The site AMDG began its virtual life in the year 1999 as “Spiritual corner” (www.ffrz.hr/duhovni-kutak) publishing, besides spiritual offer of the Faculty, thoughts and reflections of the students, especially concerning the ignatian Spiritual Exercises. So with 2009 we celebrated 10 years jubilee – Thanks be to God!

The materials published, although exlusively personal reflections of the author, are intellectual property of the Society of Jesus and may be used only according to the intention or explicit permission of the Society of Jesus.

The great mission by the Prince of Peace (John 20:19-23)

Hannah’s prayer

Abraham’s faith in Gen 12

I shall praise him again

Coming back home (Gen 35:9-15)

Light of the world (John 8,1-12)

The experienced leader in the school of the Lord (Exodus 34:5-9)

Psalm 90

Martha – a disciple and believer (John 11)

Transfiguration – Jesus connecting earth and heaven Mt 17:1–9

Power of the Word (Bible for today):

1. Sunday of Advent

Blessed are we

Disaster and a universal new beginning

Do you want to leave? (B 21)

The Father has life (B 20)

God’s bread (B 18)

The Heart of Jesus

Human mission in the world

Mass in English (.doc)

Mass in English (.pdf)

Miraculous nature around us

Narrow door (C 21)

Where are the good fruits?

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The great mission

The great mission by the Prince of Peace

The Lord and Creator meeting his apostles
John 20:19–23

It is only after his resurrection that the Lord is greeting the apostles with: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19.21)! He is the Prince of Peace. What was foretold by Isaiah (9:6), what the angels announced at the beginning: “Peace on earth!” (Luke 2:14), now is taking place. Jesus confirms and applies his word from the Last Supper: “My peace I give you” (John 14:27).

The Lord is joining his apostles there where they are, closed, frightened, behind the barrier and expecting to be killed as their Master was. Their sentiments could be: disappointment, despair, disorientation and disbelief. Into their deepest unrest Jesus brings peace. This happens in the evening, like it was three days before, when they were celebrating Passover.

Then, on that evening, on the Mount of Olives the Lord had to say for the second time that he was Jesus they were looking for. Now, on the Easter evening he is also repeating twice his greeting: “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19.21) The apostles could well fall down at the first greeting like the people who came to Gethsemane. His coming was so unexpected, surprising and extraordinary. He was dead, the door was closed, and the disciples were fully concerned with their fear. In the Old Testament it is especially Jonah who is known for the need to be sent on his mission for the second time.

The special sign to recognize the Lord on the Easter evening are the wounds. Luke’s Gospel is very direct mentioning that out of joy the disciples were not able to believe (Luke 24:41). Jesus shows his hands and his side. The role of John could be the crucial one. In John’s Gospel Jesus is not showing his hands and his legs like in Luke (24:40), but his side. It was the beloved apostle who leaned on the side of the Lord during the Last Supper (13:25); it was him who testified that his side was pierced on the cross (John 19:35); and he went to the grave, and he saw and believed (John 20:8).

“Seeing the Lord” is the biblical experience of the highest value. The prophet testifies about his vocation: “I saw the Lord” (Isaiah 5:1); similar report there is from Amos (Amos 9:1). It is something similar to Moses who was talking to God face to face (Numbers 12:8). The apostles standing in front of Jesus encounter the living God.

The Resurrection of the Lord is for the apostles not only a joyful celebration and peaceful contemplation of Christ. It is a mission. As the Father sent Jesus, so is he sending them” (John 20:21). The Father sent him to live on earth, to be human, to go through the entire process of being born and becoming adult, to pray and work, to receive baptism, to be servant of the hungry and sick, to be the Good Shepherd, giving his life for many… That is how the Father sent him. That is how he sends them.

It is in the description of the creation of the humankind that God breathed on the newly formed man. He gave him the breath of life to make him living being (Gen 2:7). Now Jesus is breathing on the apostles to give them the Holy Spirit – the Divine Breath. This is the new creation.

Interesting enough the mission given to the apostles is reduced to our sins. This way it becomes clear that the peace they received from the Lord was not only about their fear of the Jews, but this was also the peace concerning their uneasiness and unrest of the soul burdened by sin: Peter denied knowing Jesus; three chosen apostles – Peter, James, John – didn’t stay with him watching and praying, not for one hour (Mark 14:37); they all went away and left his Master alone although they all promised to stay loyal even if they have to die with him (Mark 14:31). “Peace be with you!” is the divine forgiveness for the apostles. This is the mission given to them for the whole world.

For personal reflection:
What is it in my life that the Lord had to tell me twice?
How do I see the risen Lord with his wounded hands and heart?
Am I engaged enough in the mission the Lord has given to me?

7 August 2011

Fr. Niko Bilić SJ