Commentary on the Gospel of
Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot
A few questions jump out at me from today’s readings. What is the role of a king? Who ought we, as Christians, treat as royalty? And finally, how ought a king relate to his community?
In the first reading, the people seem to know what they want from a king: someone to be in charge, to fight their battles for them, to make them like other nations. This exchange between the people and God reads, to me, like a whiny child begging for the thing her peers have. “But everyone else has a king! Why can’t I have a king? I want a king like their kings!” The request that a king should rule and judge them seems odd at first – after all, who asks to be judged and told what to do by someone else? After a minute it makes some sense: a king would take on the burden of leadership, including the hard decisions and the blame when things didn’t turn out well.
God is like a friend to Samuel and a knowing parent to the people in this exchange. I love how God reminds his friend Samuel not to take the people’s request personally: “It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.” And then, to his children: “Ok, you can have a human king. I’ll warn you, you’re not going to like it. I would treat you much better. But, I can see your mind is made up.”
In the psalm, our communal response to the first reading, we as Christians proclaim the role of a king. “To the Holy One of Israel [belongs] our King.” A good king knows he is not God, but that he belongs to God. Indeed, we sing forever “the goodness of the Lord,” who is our true king.
In the Gospel today, the true king heals and forgives rather than leading people into battle. And yet, there is no doubt that the king rules. Jesus makes it clear that he has the ultimate authority needed to heal and forgive sins as he sees fit. In this instance, Jesus heals and forgives not based on the paralytic’s faith, but on the faith of the friends. The community’s faith and love moved Jesus to heal. I find this greatly consoling, that my community can carry me to Christ when I can’t quite make it there myself, and that their faith and love can be enough when mine is running low. Put that together with a healing, loving, forgiving king, and I feel very well cared for.
Jesus Is My King (Glenn E. Burleigh)
And the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Jesus.
Oh, he is King of kings and Lord of Lords, and his name shall be called Jesus.
Don’t you worry ‘bout presidents. Take no anxious thought about governments.
Do not be afraid of potentates or magistrates or emperors or senators.
Remember I’m your King.
I will give you peace that passeth all understanding. I will give you joy the world can’t take away.
Be still and know that I Am God, your King in all the earth.
He’s my King, every knee shall bow. Ruler of every nation: my King, every tongue shall confess.
Join in the celebration as the kings of all the earth cast their crowns at his feet.
He shall reign forever. He’s my King.
We’re gonna crown him Lord of all.
He shall reign forever. We’re gonna crown him Lord of all.
He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He’s my conquering King, and we shall crown him Lord of all.
Jesus is my King.