Today’s reading from the Second Book of Kings is one of the passages that sometimes turns people off to the Hebrew Scriptures. They argue that the Scriptures should not be filled with plots and murders and stories about people who connive to steal thrones. Athaliah is a woman who plotted, killed, and did everything she could to secure the throne of Ahab, her father. Once she thought she had killed all the others who could claim the throne, she set up temples and groves to the god Baal with its sensuous rites that polluted the children of Israel. In the end, of course, she is thwarted in her attempts to gain the throne for herself as the rightful son of Jehoram is seated on the throne and she is condemned to death.
Why does God’s Word contain such stories? The answer is quite simple. The Hebrew Scriptures are the story of God’s relationship with the children of Israel. The story of that relationship is supposed to show us that God’s plan for our salvation was able to overcome sin, the ultimate goal of God’s plan. Jesus was able to overcome sin and death through obedience, an obedience that stands in stark contrast to the disobedience of which we read in many of the historical books of the Scriptures.
The other answer to the question is that these are human stories, and, therefore, they show us what human beings are capable of. Today we remember two martyrs who were caught in royal intrigue and plotting. St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, a lawyer and a bishop, were both men of faith. When the King of England tried to proclaim himself the supreme head of the Church of England, they refused to sign the Act of Parliament. All of this was done so that Henry could divorce his wife who was unable to produce a son. Like the story from the Scriptures, the human plot fails and Henry’s dynasty comes to an end. Throughout the years of this struggle, there were many plots, many murders, and many people who tried to secure the throne for themselves. So such stories fill our Christian history as well as the Hebrew Scriptures.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns against storing up human wealth and status. These words point us toward the way that Jesus himself has followed. St. Thomas and St. John held on to their heavenly treasure in the face of sin and infidelity to God’s commands. They stand as examples of the Gospel admonitions we hear today.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator