Thursday, January 14, 2016


By Colleen O’Sullivan

All the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Now that you are old, and your sons do not follow your example, appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.”  Samuel was displeased when they 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.”  (I Samuel 8:4-7)

Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, (the four men carrying the paralytic) opened the roof above (Jesus).  (Mark 2:4a)

Lord, plant within my heart a desire only to be closer to you.

In today’s first reading, the people of Israel are hankering for a king.  They remind me of children who pester their mother to be allowed to do or have something.  “Aww, c’mon, Mom.  Everybody else has a king.  Why can’t we have one, too?”  And the mother replies that she doesn’t care what the other children in the neighborhood have.  In their family, there will be no kings. 

At first this is the stance the prophet Samuel takes.  We are Israel.  We have a God like no other.  In the past, other nations have admired and envied us our God and the Law God has given us.  Kings are for other people who don’t have our God ruling over and protecting them.

The elders continue to whine, wheedle and beg.  “Samuel, you are very old.  You won’t be here much longer.  Look at your sons.  They’re not fit to follow in your footsteps.  What we need is a king.” 

Samuel tells them they’ll regret it if he acquiesces.  A king will make slaves of them and will bleed them dry of the earnings from their crops.  But they persist, and finally even God is tired of the conversation.  “They’re rejecting me, Samuel, and they’ll just have to be experiential learners.  Let them have their king.”

In the Gospel, Jesus is back to Capernaum and word spreads that he is there.  People come out of the woodwork wanting to hear Jesus preach.  The house fills up and the crowd spills out into the road.  Four men carrying their paralyzed friend on a litter can’t get anywhere near Jesus.  They are determined, however.  Their friend needs Jesus’ healing touch.  They are not going to be deterred by the hordes of eager listeners.  They climb up onto the roof and outrageously cut a hole in it big enough to lower their friend through.  The paralyzed man ends up right in front of Jesus.  Because of his friends’ persistence, his sins are forgiven and his physical infirmity healed.

Persistence is the common thread running through both Scripture passages.  Persistence is defined in the online Merriam Webster dictionary as the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people.  Persistence is a much admired trait in our culture, as attested to in sayings such as, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” or “He/she is like a dog with a bone.”  Persistence, we know, often pays off. 

Today’s Scripture readings lead us to consider the things we persist in wanting, because being tenacious is neither good nor evil in and of itself.  Often we’re like the paralytic and his friends, determined to do whatever it takes to be in Jesus’ presence.  Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, other times we’re like the people of Israel, thinking we’ve got to have what others have, even if they are things that lead us away from God.

What are you persistent in praying for?  Things that lead you closer to Jesus or things that pull you away from God?  (As I write this on Wednesday evening, I imagine there are many prayers being uttered centering on that $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot!) 

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