Shut up and dance… like King David

Readings for Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

King David, for all his many flaws, teaches us an important lesson in today’s first reading: If we really want to worship the Living God, we won’t be able to blend in… In fact, if anyone finds themselves blending into today’s cultural mindset, I’d say something is very wrong.

Like it or not, we’re being pressured into pushing our faith into the background of our lives. More and more, the prevailing assumption is that religion ought to be private, personal, overlook-able, unnoticeable. We’re forbidden from “imposing” our beliefs on anyone — and by that, people too often mean that religious people shouldn’t bring up God in conversation or let their personal beliefs inform their politics. In other words, our secularized culture would have us blend in. Swallow your religion, and cover it up with nice, non-committal relativism… or else! Don’t draw attention to all that religious-stuff. That’s for the individual to define and redefine… Not God or your Church.

David, in contrast, shows us another way — a way of exuberant freedom and joy. The book of Samuel tells us that he “came dancing before the LORD with abandon.” He didn’t seem to care in the least what people thought of him as he danced recklessly before the Ark of the Covenant. He enthusiastically displayed his love for God. And this wasn’t attractive to everyone. To many, he looked like a complete fool. This wasn’t included in today’s passage, but Saul’s daughter later approaches David and accuses him of behaving dishonorably. David defends his actions saying: “I was dancing before the Lord! Not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more. I will be lowly in your eyes!”

This is the spirit of a person totally in love with God! If we too are to share our faith effectively and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, we have to throw off the suffocating dictatorship of embarrassment that the secular culture would impose on our relationship with Christ. We cannot be bullied or discouraged by anyone who insists that our religion is a personal matter and therefore off-limits for public discourse.

Yes, faith is intensely personal — it ought to be the most intimate aspect of any person’s life. But for that reason, it’s all the more central, all the more important to us, and therefore all the more impossible to hide or relegate to the private sphere! At all costs, we should continue to dance before the Lord with abandon, now more than ever! We mustn’t blend in for the sake of a bland, “polite,” secularism. We’re to be consumed by real joy… not a superficial happy-go-luckiness. Who can blame us if we let that real joy be seen? From what I read in the news day in and day out, the world could use some more visible joy…

But some might bring up the following objection — “I live my faith out every day, I love God and believe in Him — but I don’t want to be obnoxious or overbearing. I don’t want to draw attention to myself like David did. I’m not comfortable with shoving my faith in people’s faces.” To this, I would say, you’re quite right! Evangelization doesn’t mean being obnoxious at all.

The bottom line is this: There can be no spectators in the House of the Lord — we each have our unique and indispensable part to play and we’re each created to dance before the Lord in a diversity of vocations within the Church. This is nothing less than the Universal Call to Holiness — the call to live out the divine life Christ has opened up to us.

Therefore, our individual dances will take any number of forms. Some dances will be much more visible, like King David’s was. Think of people like Pope Francis, Bishop Barron, Fulton Sheen, or even your parish priest. These people, by virtue of their unique role within the Body of Christ, must necessarily be very visible. But other dances will be more subtle, more introverted — and this is perfectly natural! Think of those who quietly bring communion to the homebound, or clean the linens we use at mass. Is the witness of cloistered nuns any less powerful and efficacious just because they’re behind closed doors? Far from it! Jesus tells us all: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.”

The point is to fall head over heels in love with God and dance with abandon like David — not because we enjoy drawing attention to ourselves, but rather because God has come to us, weak and sinful as we are, and we’re overwhelmed by His goodness to us. He has entered into our lives definitively and remains with us now. Accordingly, we can respond like David: With abandonment. With exuberant praise. Blending into the secular culture is boring and uninspiring. Real life happens when we choose to shut up and dance, to quote one of my favorite pop-songs.

In case you haven’t seen the phenomenal video of Stephen Colbert dancing with abandon…

About Anthony Ferguson

Anthony Ferguson is a transitional deacon preparing for the priesthood of Jesus Christ for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. He is currently in Fourth Theology at Theological College in Washington DC.
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