Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, bishop

(II Samuel6:12b-15.17-19; Mark 3:31-35)

Noblesse oblige is a French phrase meaning that nobility entails responsibility. Perhaps St. Francis de Sales, being French, knew the expression. He certainly practiced it. Although he forfeited his rights as a nobleman when he became a priest, he was eventually elevated to the episcopacy whose affairs he conducted with great honor. He defended the Catholic Church in the hostile environment of Geneva and left a rich legacy of spirituality for the laity. Noblesse oblige also applies to King David whom we hear about in the first reading.

David is renowned as a warrior, but he should also be remembered for his love for the Lord. The dance he does on the entrance of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem conveys all the affection of a spiritual sung by Mahalia Jackson. His love for God is even better expressed by his care for God’s people. Every king has a divinely ordained responsibility to assure the welfare of the poor in his land. David is pictured as discharging this duty as he provides everyone with a banquet’s share of food to celebrate the reception of the Ark.

As a political system, royalty has largely ceded to democracy where common men and women share the rights of kingship. Especially those with more than ample means must not forget the responsibility to look after the needs of the poor. After all, wealth is held by individuals to assure its efficient use, but it is meant for the good of all.