Did You Pray for Something You Realized You Didn’t Want?

15 January 2009. Friday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time
1 Sam 8, 4-22; Psalm 89; Mark 2, 1-12

Have you asked the Lord something which He granted, and then realized that you don’t want it? That is exactly the story in the first reading. The Israelites demanded for a king. In the past, they were led by charismatic leaders called “judges” like Joshua, Deborah and Samson. These chosen heroes led the Israelites against their enemies. Now they wanted to replace the old system of governing Israel. And so they prayed for a new king.

Samuel was indignant. He warned the Israelites about the price of kingship. If some leaders already took bribes, the king would take everything they valued including their freedom. All of them would be subjected to the king and his wishes. And once they had a king, there was no way for them to turn back. It would be useless to complain. And in addition, Samuel always regarded the Lord as the one and only king who cannot be replaced by a human being. But the reading repeated the answer of the Lord to Samuel: Obey the people. Let them have what they want. Appoint a king.

Now, we all know the effect of kingship when Saul and his successors became Israel’s kings.

The story of the olden days finds its relevance to the present as we elect the leaders of our country. By putting them in power, we also pledge our allegiance. We will be subjected to them. And if we do not like our leaders whom we have, in the first place, chosen, we suffer the consequences of incompetence and inability to govern with righteousness and justice. It is said that many of our leaders act like local chieftains who are concerned not about the larger country, but their own tribes.

The Gospel though presents a different model of kingship. Jesus conducted his ‘business’ in his ‘office’ at Capernaum. But his leadership was that of pure service. People gathered around Him as He taught. He spoke to an SRO crowd. He was definitely charismatic like the judges of yore. We could not deny that a magnetic personality helped Jesus in His ministry.

Moreover, Jesus did what He said He came for. He healed the sick. He addressed the many hungers of individuals and the society at large. Take for example the paralytic. He dealt with him in different levels. First, Jesus cured him of his physical illness and He addressed the desire of the paralytic’s friends. Second, He healed his inner troubles. Forgiveness of sins deals with one’s past. It pacified the paralytic’s feeling of guilt. And then, Jesus restored him to society. In Jesus’ time, sickness was regarded as God’s punishment of past sins. Jesus’ gift was the paralytic’s return to wholeness and normalcy. He had a sincere concern for people and a sensitivity to the different levels of people’s aspirations.

Having presented two models of kingship, we are asked to carefully choose who among the aspiring candidates approximate the type of leadership we truly want. We sometimes have ourselves to blame. We deserve the leaders we get.

Remember, EDSA 2? Many of us were there. Many of us prayed for our present leaders, only to realize we don’t want them.

Now, we have a chance to correct our decisions. But how much do we really desire a change?

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