Then all the lords of Shechem and all Beth-millo came together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem. When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and cried aloud and said to them, "Listen to me, you lords of Shechem, so that God may listen to you: The trees once went out to anoint a king over themselves. So they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ The olive tree answered them, ‘Shall I stop producing my rich oil by which gods and mortals are honored, and go to sway over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the fig tree answered them, ‘Shall I stop producing my sweetness and my delicious fruit, and go to sway over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I stop producing my wine that cheers gods and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?’ So all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’”
Today is Wednesday, 21st August, in the Twentieth Week of Ordinary Time.
Ex Cathedra, directed by Jeffrey Skidmore, sing Hanaq Pachap Kusikuynin, a hymn in the Quechua language of South America, a beautiful prayer which I might make my own as I listen now: “Bliss of heaven: a thousand times I adore you. Tree of uncountable fruits. Hope of the peoples. Pillar of the weak. Listen to my prayer.”
Today’s reading is from the Book of Judges.
One great temptation that the People of Israel faced from time to time was the desire to have a king over them. This was because they had forgotten what God had done for them, and did not really trust God to look after them. In the reading that you have just heard, Abimelech (whose name means “My Father is King”) is making a bid to become king. And Jotham, who stands on the mountain and tells a story, is the last survivor of Abimelech’s brothers. Abimelech has killed all the rest of them, to fulfil his ambition. What would be the equivalent today of Abimelech’s power-game today, do you think?
Do you ever find yourself longing for power? What is the best way of coping with our lust for power?
Listen again to the parable that Jotham tells. Why does he shout it from the top of a mountain? Notice the order in which he mentions the trees: first, the olive-tree, then the fig-tree, then the vine, and finally the bramble. What is the point that he is making here?
Now try to express before God the feelings that well up deep in your heart and turn them into a prayer.