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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

If Only They Had Done it Differently

Now the sons of Eli were wicked; they had respect neither for the Lord, nor for the priests' duties toward the people . . . . When Eli was very old, he heard repeatedly how his sons were treating all Israel (and that they were having relations with the women serving at the entry of the meeting tent) . . . So he said to them: ". . . it is not a good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading about you (1 Samuel 2:12-22).

Eli’s sons, priests themselves, scandalized the Jewish congregation with their sins. And Eli did little to stop them. So God took the discipline into His own hands, and in a very short time, Eli and his sons were dead.

As I once again read this story I wondered why the great prophet Samuel, who’d been raised in Eli’s home and witnessed the scandals – as well as God’s judgment – did not discipline his own sons when they, too, “turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3).

And so, I suppose it should be no surprise that the Jewish people, scandalized by their religious leaders, sought something new. No longer satisfied with a theocracy, they clamored for a monarchy. No longer wanting – perhaps no longer trusting – their priests or prophets to lead them, they demanded instead a political leader to guide them (1 Samuel 8:6).

I wonder what Israel’s history would have looked like if Eli – and later, Samuel – had disciplined their sons when they persisted in their sins, if they had removed them from their positions of title and office. Would the congregation have sought others to lead them? Would Israel’s history been less pock-marked by loss of faith? Would the nation have suffered the devastating division that struck them within only two generations?

If only the religious leaders had done it differently.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rich, for this timely reflection. The lessons of the past (the split of the Eastern and Roman Churches and the Reformation notable) are seemingly staring us in the face again (in somewhat different form). I am so concerned about the divisive tacks taken by even priests in the Church (seeming to them, I know, of trying to help--as was Luther's behavior), who are encouraging this "division" to many persons not already actually "in union" with the magisterial teachings... why are they not "in union"--for reasons, mostly, other than the current scandals (so many have left for this reason, however). Very few are actually trying to make some dent in what is going on by being helpful (most of it is hot rage and bitter complaining). I have maintained only by working locally can one do very much--but our culture, steeped in "revolution" and the expression of everyone's opinion, whether well-founded or not, has added to the chaos and disrepair: it is not only the religious leaders. Also involved with this are many myths--like the primacy of "science", the reliance on the minds of humans in solving these issues, and limiting of Jesus' healing power in the Sacraments... some have noted there is little talk of "Jesus" from the hierarchy when addressing the issues at hand (this does NOT include the Pope, who has faithfully talked about Jesus and his teachings as our shepherd). Many good Catholics have retreated to a life of prayer, because it simply seems that these are not being heard by anyone--and knowing God will listen to the voices of his "little ones" in earnest prayer--it seems the expedient thing to do. From this side of Puget Sound, I send you greetings--and my prayers.

Richard Maffeo said...

You speak of retreating to prayer. I understand what you say. I find myself often and also retreating there -- and to Scripture -- for comfort and guidance.