Friday, January 17, 2014

A King to Judge Them

By Melanie Rigney
Samuel was displeased when (the elders) asked for a king to judge them. He prayed to the Lord however, who said in answer: “Grant the people’s every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.” (1 Samuel 8:6-7)
For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord. (Psalm 89:2)
“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?” (Mark 2:9)

Lord, help me always to remember the power lies with You, not with my sisters and brothers here on earth.

So who’s in charge here?

You can understand the concerns of the elders in today’s first reading. Samuel was getting old. His sons weren’t regarded as fit to lead and, in the elders’ view, what the land really needed was a king. They didn’t understand God had the judging and the ruling well in hand. But God was willing to step out of the way if that was what the people truly thought they wanted.

Hundreds of years later, around 250 AD, the man who would become St. Anthony the abbot was born near Cairo. He would live more than a hundred years, rejecting his parents’ wealth in favor of a simple, austere life, including two stints of more than a dozen years each as a hermit. He’s regarded as having founded monasticism as we know it by agreeing to help a community of hermits. He would serve as the group’s abbot for more than forty years.

It was during that time that Anthony’s reputation for wisdom grew to the point that the Emperor Constantine wrote to ask for guidance in transitioning his empire from paganism to Christianity. Some others in the community were impressed: to think the emperor had written a monk for advice.

According to his biographer, Anthony brushed off this awe with these words: “Do not be astonished if an emperor writes to us, for he is a man. But rather: wonder that God wrote the Law for men, and has spoken to us through his own Son.”

Hundreds of years later, we focus on handicapping presidential primaries that are still two years away and fret about those who lead, or attempt to lead, our country, states, counties, and cities today. Samuel and Anthony both remind us that our fealty lies with a greater king who doesn’t run for election and isn’t term-limited, a king whom we didn’t select for the job but is perfectly suited for it and who loves us and guides us always. We are blessed when we remember who is truly in charge.

We aren’t required to be apolitical (which is a good thing in this town), but we do need to always remember where the power, “political” or otherwise, begins and to prayerfully ask God for direction. Consider attending or supporting in some way the March for Life January 22 in Washington or the events leading up to it. Or, attend the Mass in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on January 19 at St. Joseph’s in Alexandria, celebrated by Bishop Loverde. Or, join Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and United Methodist bishops on January 20 in a prayer for Christian unity at St. Ann’s in Arlington.

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