Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Judges 2:11-19; Matthew 19:16-22)
We think of judges as people who interpret laws and rules in individual cases. The judges of a dance competition, for example, determine which dancers best reflect in their movements the principles of agility, creativity, and clarity of expression. But interpretation is not the principal function of the judges of the Old Testament. Rather than sit back and decide, these men and women lead the people forward by reestablishing righteousness when the ways of God are forsaken.
Today’s reading from the Book of Judges indicates the difficulty that the judges face. The people are not given to tow the line but readily chuck the Covenant made with the Lord in favor of heathen practices. The waywardness leads to internal weakness and hence subjugation to foreign power. God raises up judges to stir ardor within the tribes of Israel to follow His ways and to reject their oppressors. Regretfully, however, the new righteousness is always short-lived.
The failure of judges to produce lasting goodness eventually will give way to the period of kings who consolidate the tribes and, at least initially, have some success in transforming the people’s errant ways. Although this arrangement will ultimately fail, it does bring the hope of a messiah who would be capable of effecting lasting righteousness. Jesus in time fulfills this expectation by establishing not a political state but a holy people living in every land. We make up part of this people today and try with all our soul to live up to Jesus’ righteousness.