While Searching for a Donkey A King is Found
The people of Israel and God had been through a great deal together but, like many couples in long-lasting relationships, they were beginning to sit silently at the breakfast table each wondering where the love had gone, metaphorically speaking.
As the tribes of Israel grew comfortable in the land which God had provided they began to believe that they didn’t have to always be so reliant on God. They began to move on their own initiatives and exercise their own creativity, flirting with new ideas. One of these ideas was that of having a King, a Sovereign like so many of the other countries around them.
Samuel spoke to God about the possibility and God thought it was a bad idea. But God also knew that He could not say no or there would be no end to the grumbling. So Samuel went off to think about what kind of man would make a good King. Meanwhile Saul, the son of Kirsh, was out looking for his father’s lost donkey. Searching high and low Saul was about to give up when he came across a town that was known for having a Seer. Thinking he had nothing to lose Saul approached the Seer (who in fact was Samuel) and asked if he knew where he would be able to find the missing animal. Samuel responded in all seriousness, “Forget your ass, you are going to be my new King.” and anointed him on the spot. This being just a little story that goes to show politics hasn’t changed much in the last 3000 years.
With such an inauspicious beginning we should not be surprised that after a quick rise, Saul’s reign ends rather gloomily as he escapes slavery to the Philistines by falling on his own sword.
Compare this story to the Gospel for today. Jesus discovers Levi (or Matthew as he is otherwise called). Levi is a tax-collector, a grievous sinner, basically a scoundrel who has been rejected from proper society. Jesus calls Levi to a life changing experience by inviting him to be a disciple and, as a result, Levi’s life is changed for ever. He immediately leaves behind his old ways and turns his heart over to a life with God.
In the first story humans forget God and attempt to build something on their own. It’s not that they don’t have skills and imagination, but without God at the helm things are sure to come unravelled. The call of Levi on the other hand is a great reminder that there is not one of us who are too far gone that God cannot bring us back to Him and use us for good. God has given us so many talents and abilities but it cannot be forgotten that if God does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor (Ps 127)
On a closing note, January 14 on the Redemptorist calendar marks the memorial of Blessed Peter Donders, C.Ss.R., a Redemptorist priest who gave much of his life to working among the poor and sick in the Dutch colony of Surinam. Please enjoy the following video produced by the Redemptorists.