The Readings for Friday, 1st Week of Ordinary Time (B2):
Non enim te abjecerunt, sed me, ne regnem super eos.
For they have not rejected thee, but me, that I should not reign over them.
God sounds rather downcast here. Give them what they want…
Except I think that would be a lie. God’s making a point to Samuel: that he should not be downcast. God is right. The Jews are rejecting his direct rule and asking for a king that they should be like the other nations. God has a plan here. And even though the Jews think they have a better idea, God is bringing salvation out of even that normal human urge to look like everyone else.
God warns them.
This will be the right of the king, that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and put them in his chariots, and will make them his horsemen, and his running footmen to run before his chariots, And he will appoint of them to be his tribunes, and his centurions, and to plough his fields, and to reap his corn, and to make him arms and chariots. Your daughters also he will take to make him ointments, and to be his cooks, and bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your best oliveyards, and give them to his servants…. And you shall cry out in that day from the face of the king, whom you have chosen to yourselves: and the Lord will not hear you in that day, because you desired unto yourselves a king.
They don’t care so God gives them the Royal Schmuck, Saul, and says, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
But then Saul goes out of his way to offend God… and God sends the people David.
Then from David came the Messiah. And Jesus is God’s final answer to the Jews asking Samuel for a King.
They are not rejecting you – they are rejecting me… so I will be their King anyway.
This is God’s wisdom, God’s majesty: I will bring salvation out of even your errors. Hindsight is 20:20, yo. What would have happened if the Jews had not asked for a king? It’s not important. What we have is God’s history as it has happened now.
And when we see the Tapestry woven from human sin and divine grace we are overwhelmed with God’s love for us. Each time we ran away the pattern was seemingly rewoven to include that. Or did we only feel we were running away?
Last night at Evening prayer this came rushing in as we sang this poetic setting of the 23rd Psalm by Henry W. Baker, in Hymns Ancient and Modern (London: 1868):
The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His,
And He is mine forever.
Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And, where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home rejoicing brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy Cross before to guide me.
Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And oh, what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!
And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.
That third verse in italics up there… singing that I lost it: couldn’t sing. Cuz that line “perverse and foolish oft I strayed” is like my motto for the last 50 years. Yet there I was, standing in a Dominican Community singing vespers, in a Roman Catholic Church. How? Well, if you read a long you know how. But so overwhelming was God’s mercy and my sense of his love for me…
God gives us what we want, weaving anew (or in spite of, I can never tell) our many missteps. And the great dance that is created has one final goal, one final ending which was also read at vespers last night:
There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears. Although you have never seen him, you love him, and without seeing you now believe in him, and rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory because you are achieving faith’s goal, your salvation. (I Peter 1:6-9 – Liturgy of the Hours)
It is all to that end: the goal of faith is not our happiness in this world, not some Witchy Peddler of a great get rich quick secret of manifesting our dreams, nor some Royal Schmuck of a politician that rooks us all for racist fools: rather our Salvation – including the politicians and racists and the witchy peddlers and all of us. God’s out to save us all, no matter how perverse and foolish we are.
Sheep are smelly, stupid creatures that, if not minded carefully, will feed to close to rushing waters and get carried away. (Their wool traps air, and makes the buoyant.) We may not always smell, but any political rush will sweep us along.
Jesus – whose very name means salvation – is God’s only answer to our plaintive, toddler cry “leave us alone!”. God has sent a human being to us. Fully Human, this being is also God.