Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, bishop
(Wisdom 6:1-11; Luke 17:11-19)
During the Viet Nam War, President Lyndon Johnson once was handed a memo concerning the pros and cons of using tactical nuclear weapons. According to his Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, the memo stated that use of such weapons would move China to enter the war its own nuclear weapons starting a full-fledged nuclear war. Rusk later reported that the words of the memo “popped out of the page” to Johnson who as President of the United States felt responsibility for not just his country but for the world.
The reading from Wisdom tells us that princes and kings (and we can surely add to the list presidents and prime ministers) should indeed feel grave responsibility for their actions. It emphasizes that the burdens of their offices will not exempt them from divine judgment. Rather those responsibilities will entail God’s intensified scrutiny of their actions.
The Church recognizes the responsibilities and difficulties of civil leaders. Together with prayers for Church needs, the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (GIRM for short) specifies that the faithful are to pray for “public authorities and the salvation of the world” in the intercessions after the homily. Although there are always those who think that they can do a better job, we are wise to pray for those in power rather than covet their positions.