February 14, 2014 - Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19
Psalm 81:10-15
Mark 7:31-37

Today we heard how God, through the prophet Ahijah, divided the kingdom of Israel into two parts: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. God told Solomon that he would do this because of his unfaithfulness, taking the kingdom away from his son, but leaving him the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Tomorrow we will hear about how Jeroboam, the new king of Israel, tells the Israelites to stop worshipping in Jerusalem because he is concerned that if the people of Judah and the people of Israel worship in the same temple, they will not stay divided. So he builds idols for the Israelites to worship instead. Technically, he claims that these idols are images of the God they had always worshipped, but this still breaks the First Commandment.

The Israelites, after 1000 years and after mixing with other people, became the Samaritans, while the people of Judah became the Jews. We know the animosity that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans in Jesus’ time. The Samaritan woman who spoke with Jesus still wanted an answer to the question that Jeroboam had raised: should we worship in the Jerusalem Temple or not? Jesus tells her, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” So he confirms, in case there was any doubt, that Jeroboam did wrong.

Why would God give Jeroboam the kingship of Israel, knowing full well that he would lead the people into a perversion of true worship? It was unfortunate that the majority of Israel was handed over to “worshipping what they do not know”, but it was necessary. The wealth of Israel was in the north, so the king of the Jews would never again be as powerful as King Solomon was. We have seen how power and wealth corrupted King Solomon. By weakening the country, God strengthened the faith. In dividing the kingdom, most of the Israelites lost a proper understanding of their faith, but if Israel had remained united, the sort of place that the queen of Sheba was amazed by, the whole nation would have been lost.

Let all of us, living in the richest, most powerful country in the world remember this: God is not concerned for kingdoms or nations or corporations. His only concern is individual people. He will destroy anything, no matter how much we value it, to bring us back to him, to make us happy.