Today’s first reading reveals several things about the relationship between God and His People. God, as we know from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as well as other teachers, has His Perfect Will and His Permissive Will.
As God sees our free will as sacred, and as we have complete freedom on the use of our wills, today’s reading may help us understand several aspects of willing or not willing God’s Will.
First Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22
4 The elders of Israel all assembled, went back to Samuel at Ramah, and said,
5 ‘Look, you are old, and your sons are not following your example. So give us a king to judge us, like the other nations.’
6 Samuel thought that it was wrong of them to say, ‘Let us have a king to judge us,’ so he prayed to Yahweh.
7 But Yahweh said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you: it is not you they have rejected
10 Everything that Yahweh had said, Samuel then repeated to the people who were asking him for a king.
11 He said, ‘This is what the king who is to reign over you will do. He will take your sons and direct them to his chariotry and cavalry, and they will run in front of his chariot.
12 He will use them as leaders of a thousand and leaders of fifty; he will make them plough his fields and gather in his harvest and make his weapons of war and the gear for his chariots.
13 He will take your daughters as perfumers, cooks and bakers.
14 He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his officials.
15 He will tithe your crops and vineyards to provide for his courtiers and his officials.
16 He will take the best of your servants, men and women, of your oxen and your donkeys, and make them work for him.
17 He will tithe your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.
18 When that day comes, you will cry aloud because of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day Yahweh will not hear you.’
19 The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel. They said, ‘No! We are determined to have a king,
20 so that we can be like the other nations, with our own king to rule us and lead us and fight our battles.’
21 Samuel listened to all that the people had to say and repeated it in Yahweh’s ear.
22 Yahweh then said to Samuel, ‘Do as they ask and give them a king.’ Samuel then said to the Israelites, ‘Go home, each of you, to his own town.’
Bullet points may be useful.
- The People of God wanted to be a nation like ever other nation. God did not want this. God wanted them to be a holy people, not just another kingdom but His Kingdom.
- The Judges and Prophets had been given to Israel as leaders. The People did not want to be different.
- The people did not trust in Samuel, one of the most holy prophets and leaders of the Old Testament. They most likely were rebelling against his good, clear, strong rule.
- God warned the people as to how kings would act, which is precisely how they did act. David, an exception to the rule, is the only saint-king of Israel, as compared to the judges and prophets who have many saints among their ranks.
- The people did not want to be signs of contradiction in the world as followers of the Law.
- God gave in to them in His permissive will for several reasons: one, they were hard of heart and were not listening to Samuel; two, God allowed suffering to result from this decision, as prophesied, many of the kings were bad, even evil, as in the case of Saul, who committed suicide after leaving God and committing the heinous crime of necromancy.
- God’s permissive will brings about purging of the wills of the people, who, apparently, like so many of us, had to learn the hard way how to listen and trust in God’s perfect will.
Today, one sees the same problem of grumbling to be like everyone else. The American Episcopalian Church is now banned from the larger Anglican Church for three years because of the former’s stance on homosexual “marriages”. The worldwide Anglican Church decided on the conservative, Scriptural teaching. The American Episcopalians are like the Old Testament People of God wanting to be and look like everyone else. Conformity has become more important than witness.
So, too, this happens in the Catholic Church. Conforming to a certain group becomes more important than witnessing to the Truth. Yesterday, the holy woman to whom I referred showed me two very popular “Catholic” newspapers. These two newspapers, highly conservative, feature writers who have moved themselves out of the Church by their extreme right-wing views. One new issue was so negative in almost every article that I mentioned to two friends later that if one read these newspapers regularly one would become cynical, negative, aggressively anti-Church. One can become a Protestant from the right end of the spectrum as well as from the left.
Agendas and heresies were set up in some of these articles as true Catholic teaching. The holy woman decided not to renew her subscriptions. She said the newspapers had changes and I noted that the vitriolic expressions indicated warped, angry souls. Even the great reforming saints loved the Church. One does not see love, only actual hatred.
Three small points noted in some of the articles (she was throwing away back issues) indicated deviation from Church teaching.
One, both Pope Benedict and St. John Paul II, as well as St. John XXIII were referred to as “modernists” , a completely untrue statement, and slander.
Two, some articles referred to both St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II as not being saints-and as canonization is infallible, these decisions indicate a rebellious stance to the Church.
Three, quotations of the present Pope were taken out of context and references without texts to his errors were noted. Now, one can see some flaws, but to be picking on even falsely reported articles or bad translations, or taking things out of context is just plain yellow journalism.
These writers remind me of those complainers among God’s Chosen People noted in the above passage. They wanted something God did not want. They wanted to conform to a certain group of people outside of the call of God to be His Chosen People. Now, we have not only the liberal end of the Church conforming to errors, we see far-right groups conforming to errors, including slander.
One can become a heretic so easily, simply by not being humble and quiet. To be obedient to Holy Mother Church means realizing one’s real place in the Church and abiding in peace in that place. Yes, one may have to suffer, but creating agendas and following negative people will make one into a rebel, just like any liberal person.
There are many balanced groups of Catholics. I cannot understand buying a newspaper which refers to Father Zuhlsdorf as Mr. Zuhlsdorf, can you? And, the term neo-con, which is totally judgmental and not a theological term, causes great harm in the Church, as many good and holy people are judged as such by some of these newspapers.
Samuel was trying to show the People of God that they were not like any other group of people created by man. They were God’s People, not belonging to themselves, a clique or a potentially heretical community. Be careful, prayer, and discern by testing all your ideas against the true teachings of the Catholic Church.