1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22a
"Agency first, God second." These are the words spoken twice by ‘Clover’ in the movie "The Good Shepherd" starring Matt Damon (playing the part of CIA agent Edward Wilson) and Angelina Jolie (Wilson’s wife ‘Clover’). Criticizing her husband’s commitment to the OSS and the CIA, Clover is making a rather profound observation about her husband’s priorities: He is more committed to his agency (nation) than his God.
The same can be said about the Israelites in today’s first reading from Samuel. In their demand of Samuel to give them an earthly king, the people are ignoring their Creator whose justice would have been all they needed. God, of course, gives the people the freedom to make this choice: "Grant the people’s every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king."
The questions we must all ask ourselves, then, are: Do I seek God’s justice or do I seek the justice of earthly things? Do I love my country more than I love my God? Do I pay more attention to the U.S. presidential campaigns than I do to the humble kingship of Jesus? Is my patriotism stronger than my love for the Church? Do I know more about my country’s justice system than my God’s? Do I even know what God’s justice is all about?
The scribes in today’s gospel also have their priorities mixed up. Their notions regarding God’s forgiveness of sins had been completely distorted to their liking. Instead of recognizing God’s healing power in Jesus, they wanted God’s forgiveness to conform to the laws and institutions they had created.
It is so common to never see the humanity in those on trial, in jail or in prison. We tend to judge people exactly how our justice system judges people. But what if we took the radical stance that EVERY HUMAN HAS A STORY? Better yet, what if we actually took the time to learn everyone’s story? Wouldn’t the world be a different place? Wouldn’t we have more compassion for those who have turned to a life of crime? Wouldn’t we see solutions to crime much deeper than a prison or jail cell? Wouldn’t we, in a sense, be allowing everyone to experience Jesus’ forgiveness just as the paralytic in today’s gospel?
If we took the time to learn everyone’s story we wouldn’t need an earthly institution to bring about justice. God’s justice system would be all we need.
Tony Cortese is the Campus Minister at the Newman Catholic Community at Sacramento State Univversity.