Our first reading today tells such a full story that I am going to ask you to consider only the passage’s opening clause.
The first reading gives us the whole long story of how David had relations with the wife of Uriah, going on then to covering up his sin by arranging for the death of Uriah. Let’s leave that for another time, putting our attention now only on the opening that spoke of “At the turn of the year when kings go out on campaign.”
In aancient countries where all men were farmers, their field work called for their full attention through the months when they prepared the land and planted the seed. Their fields again required all their working days when the crops were ready for harvest. But, in between those seasons there were a few months when, as the Gospel tells us, God was taking over, giving growth to the seed. It was then that they were free to follow their kings out on campaign.
In the early Middle Ages there was one notable break in farming-fighting cycle. The Muslims had taken over Spain, and were moving up into France, when Charles Martel (Charlemagne’s grandfather) decided that the only way to save Europe for Christianity was to train a year-round army. He fed his men on crops borrowed from monasteries, while he drilled them to attack in disciplined phalanxes. With them he drove the Muslims back at the Battle of Tours in 732.
That brought about the birth of our standing army that take up more of our time and money than the farming does.