Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Judges 2:11-19; Matthew 19:16-22)
We think of judges as magistrates who interpret laws and rules in public settings. The judges of a dance competition, for example, determine which dancers best reflect 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 led the people forward by reestablishing righteousness when the ways of God were forsaken.
Today’s reading from the Book of Judges indicates the difficulty that Israel’s judges faced. The people were not given to keeping the Covenant which their ancestors made with the Lord. Rather, they followed the heathen practices of their non-Israelite neighbors. Their waywardness led to internal weakness and hence subjugation by foreign powers. God raised up judges to stir ardor within the tribes of Israel to follow His ways. Regretfully, however, the new righteousness was always short-lived.
The failure of judges to produce lasting goodness eventually gave way to the period of kings who consolidated the tribes and, at least initially, had some success in transforming the people’s errant ways. Although this arrangement ultimately failed as well, it did bring the hope of a messiah who would bring about lasting righteousness throughout the world. Jesus fulfilled 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.