Reading (1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22a) Gospel (St. Mark 2:1-12)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about this paralyzed man, and we recognize that the paralysis of this man was far more spiritual than it was physical. Although he was obviously afflicted physically and was unable to walk, nonetheless, as Jesus makes very clear, this had to do with his sinfulness. When his sins were forgiven, he was able to walk. If we look at our own selves, of course, we realize what happens to us is that sin causes us to be paralyzed in a spiritual way. We become blinded to things, but more than that, we become paralyzed; we are not able to function the way that we ought. We wind up either doing things we should not, or failing to do the things we should.
If we couple that, then, with the first reading, we look at the people who are rejecting God. They come to Samuel with no faith in God at all and beg him to appoint for them a king. Samuel lays out for them all the problems that are going to come about if they have a king, and they basically ignore him and say, “We don’t care. We want a king anyway.” And God said to him, They are not rejecting you, they are rejecting Me. Now we have to remember that at the time of Samuel there had not been a prophet for quite some time. So God raises up Samuel, and now the elders come to him and say, “Your sons aren’t following your example. Obviously, there isn’t going to be an immediate successor, so give us a king.” They did not trust that God could raise up someone else. If they could not see that one of Samuel’s sons was following in his footsteps, then it must not be that there is anybody who would be able to do this.
Of course, we can see the foolishness of their position, but it is just plain human, that is, it is humanity afflicted by sin. We cannot think straight because of sin. We cannot act properly because of sin. It is only when we recognize that, and have our sins forgiven, that the spiritual paralysis is lifted so we can see clearly. And we have the exact same point laid before us: Whom will we follow? We have our king – Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords; the question is: Are we willing to allow Him to be our king? Most of us, just like the people of old, because we cannot see Him right now, we will not accept Him as our king. If we asked the people of ancient Israel if God was their king, they would all say, “Oh, yes, God is the king of Israel.” Yet here they are saying, “Appoint for us a king, a king who is going to lead us into battle” – as if God did not, “a king who is going to rule over us” – as if God did not. But because they could not see Him and because they could not hear Him, they simply rejected Him because they wanted something tangible to hang onto. Once again, the spiritual paralysis and the blindness of sin.
We have Our Lord, and He is King. Now the question is: Is He truly the king of our lives? Objectively, He is the king of the whole universe. But subjectively, is He the king of our own individual lives? Are we allowing Him to be that? Or, from a spiritual perspective, are we lying on a mat like the paralytic in the Gospel because we are afflicted by sin and we are unable to function properly in a Christian manner? That is something we all need to take to prayer. We need to look honestly within ourselves and ask ourselves some pretty hard questions. But it really comes down to one thing: Whom will you serve? Who will be your king? That is the question we have to answer. Are we going to be like Joshua, who challenged the people in that same kind of way and said, As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord? But we have to understand, as Saint Paul makes clear in Romans, all of us will serve someone. If it is not God, then ultimately it is going to be Satan. Satan will present himself in many forms, whether it is money or self or materialism or whatever it might be; it does not matter. It is one or the other; the choice is ours. God will not force Himself on us. He is there and we know the truth, now we have to choose whom we will serve.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.