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Being Different

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

As individuals, we tend to conform to the prevailing social pressures and trends of our day. Although we cherish our individuality, most of us simply try to fit it. This is especially true of children and teenagers. No one wants to seem odd or out of step with the crowd. Unfortunately this tendency may sometimes carry over into our moral behavior. Rather than follow our informed conscience, we sometimes fall victim to peer pressure and go along with the crowd.

The reading from the Book of Samuel illustrates what can happen when an entire society acts in this way. Up until the time of Samuel, Israel was governed by a group of judges who interpreted the Law as it had been formulated in the Sinai Covenant. However, as the nations that surrounded Israel became monarchies, the people of Israel pressured Samuel to appoint a king to reign over them. Despite his warnings, they persisted in their demands until God relented and told Samuel to give the people what they wanted. It was understood, however, that the king was supposed to be God's representative and not a law unto himself. Unfortunately, kings are human beings; human beings are often corrupted by power. A long line of corrupt kings fill the pages of Israel's history.

As Christians, it is our vocation to conform to the image of Jesus Christ. However, like the people of Israel, all too often we try to conform to an image which will allow us to blend in with the prevailing ethos. This is precisely why so many of the saints stand out as different or odd. They choose to conform to a different image. When we think of the heroes and heroines of our faith, we are forced to admit that they were holy because they were different. In fact, this is exactly what the word "holy" means in Hebrew: set apart, other than. God is the model of holiness. Our quest for holiness involves putting on Christ and shedding the garments of a sullied and corrupt society. Our text from Samuel today warns us of the dangers of conforming to the conduct of the world.

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