Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(I Kings 21:17-29; Matthew 5:43-48)
Living in democratic societies, people cannot appreciate the authority of an ancient king. He had a standing army to pursue his interests. His wealth procured anything or he desired. His fame and influence made him the envy of the whole nation. Can it be any wonder that kings are given to excess? They wanted many wives, increasing amounts of territory, and the populace to treat them as if they were gods. For these reasons prophets came to the fore during the time of monarchy in Israel. Prophets are rightly seen as messengers sent by God to channel the king’s power to ways of justice.
Today’s first reading tells of the prophet Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab, king of Israel. On God’s behalf Elijah denounces Ahab for profiting by the murder of an innocent man. His punishment is severe. The king and his treacherous wife will suffer the same brutal ending as the poor man she had killed. Interestingly, God with the mercy that Jesus suggests in today’s gospel commutes Ahab’s sentence. When the king repents of his wrong-doing, God decides that his son and not he will suffer the ignominious end.
We need prophets today to temper the power of national leaders. All should listen to the voices of men and women who give their lives to prayer and wisdom. These people will not be the first to speak nor will they have a comment on everything that takes place. But they will denounce what civil rulers do that is patently wrong and injurious to the nation.