Kempis tells us (1,6) that obsession with acquiring material things causes us to lose our peace of mind and heart. Is it not the case? “I gotta have that ‘hot’ new phone — I can’t stop thinking about it!” “I must get those expensive tickets — I’ll move heaven and earth to make sure I snag a pair!” “How can I show myself in public without the latest designer outfit — I’ll do and spend whatever it takes to get it!” “We must get our candidate into office — if we don’t it will be the end of civilization as we know it!”
Anyone who watches even a bit of news or dips his toe into social media knows that the last sentence is not an exaggeration for far too many folks. Well, as the Bible says, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccles 1:9). This is where the people of Israel were. While it is true that a lot of encouragement to the Chosen People was not provided by the judges regarding the latter’s personal behavior and their ability as leaders, the elders in today’s first reading (1 Sam 8:4-7, 10-22a) come forward and essentially want to double down. Instead of going back to God, who should have been the only leader they ever would need, they look around and see other nations’ kings and want to have an earthly monarch as well. Samuel relates to them that God says, “they are rejecting me as their king,” and warns them in detail that they are in for even worse times with this type of leader, yet they insist. So God grants them their desire, essentially giving them the punishment they deserve (read the rest of the Old Testament for proof).
Kempis speaks of earthly possessions; his reproofs do not apply to the divine. We cannot desire God too greatly — pleasing Him and doing His will are proper obsessions. So, let us not fall into the trap of thinking that there is some magic formula among our fallen race to make us happy, to make everything right. Let us not desire this elusive temporal “ruler” to straighten things out. Let us look to the Almighty constantly and we will quickly come to the realization that “our hearts our restless until they rest in [God]” (St. Augustine in Confessions).
Icon of the prophet Samuel, 17th century