Friday, January 18, 2008

We will have a king...

[the following is a paraphrase and extension of my homily this morning, on 1 Samuel 8: 4-7, 10-22a and Mark 2: 1-12]

Living as we do in a nation that has been at war for over six years and on two fronts for nearly five years, our ears ought to prick up when we hear this morning's first reading. "There must be a king over lead us in warfare and fight our battles."

The Founders of our republic knew well that kings fight wars. This is one reason that we have no king, and furthermore why war can only be declared by Congress. This is a much higher threshold to clear than the will of the executive, especially as our President has become a powerful figure, able to say to our armed forces "Go" and they go. Whether or not we feel that our present wars are just, we are dangerously close to having a de facto king. Because we fear for our way of life, as did the Israelites before us, we have this instinctive need for a king to fight our battles.

If so, we show ourselves no better than our spiritual forebears. This would be a depressing thought, if not for God's own fidelity and goodness. He does not say to Samuel: "They are rejecting me, so I'm going back into my comfortable home in the heavens where I don't have to bother with these people." Rather, what is remarkable about this passage is that God grants the people's request, and in a demonstration of God's power to bring good out of our enfeebled humanity, He figures out a way to return as our King. He sends His only Son in human flesh to be our King, "to lead us in warfare and fight our battles."

Of course Jesus Christ does not come to fight against the Philistines or against any other nation. Rather, we are called to enlist for a far nobler and more glorious war, the battle against the 'powers', evil and sin. Jesus, by coming in the flesh and dying for us has broken the power of sin and has shared with His Church the authority to forgive sins, as we see in today's gospel. Might we, strengthened by this reality, let go of fear and aggression and renew our minds with God's message of love? Let us ask for the gift of faith so as to place spiritual things above material things so as to preach the Good News of Christ our King.

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