Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
(II Kings 17:5-8.13-15a.18; Matthew 7:1-5)
Historian Paul Kennedy thinks that great powers fall because their military campaigns overstretch their economic resources. In contemporary times Kennedy’s theory has successfully predicted the fall of Russia and the rise of China. He warns the United States that it should better balance its military expenditures with economic investment if it is going to maintain a leadership position in the world. The first reading summarizes the story of the downfall of a power twenty-seven hundred years ago. The causes are not the same which Paul Kennedy gives, but a correspondence is noted.
The Kingdom of Israel (or Samaria), long separated from its sister kingdom of Judah, fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Biblical writers ascribe the downfall to the sinfulness of the people. According to today’s passage, Israel worshipped the gods of the land’s original settlers and refused to abide by the covenant made with the Lord. They became undisciplined and divided – an easy prey for their powerful neighbors.
Seeing God’s hand in history is by nature a humble effort. Nations demonstrating righteousness do not always triumph. Others with sinister aims sometimes succeed. But we no longer consider God working through nations such as Israel or the United States. His promise to Abraham that his descendants would outnumber the stars of night has been transformed from that of a nation to that of a tradition of peoples professing a common faith. To be sure, it is far from fulfilled, but Christianity is gaining momentum in places. It possesses a coherent theological and moral basis that will continue to attract people.