In today’s First Reading we see beginning of the end for King Saul. The Lord chose him to be king over Israel, and so he was the Lord’s representative: the way he lead was understood by the people to be what the Lord wanted. The Amalekites had a long enmity with Israel, and the Lord expressly ordered not only their destruction as punishment, but the destruction of all their goods: none of it was to be spared. Saul “countermanded” the Lord by not killing the Amalekite king (and a king, being like the head, is like not killing the body at all) and kept the best booty because it would please his troops, sacrificing it as a way to appease them and the Lord, or so he thought.
When the Lord sends the prophet Samuel to denounce Saul for what he has done, Saul repeatedly tries to justify himself: with his own words he shows he did not obey the Lord to the letter, as was expected, and he was not repentant for what he had done. He thought a few sacrifices were enough to appease the Lord, an attitude toward a god that is typical of the nations surrounding Israel, but also an attitude of people worshiping what they thought was a god, but wasn’t. Their gods didn’t speak to them or talk back when they disobeyed them. Saul, to the contrary, had all the means to know God’s will clearly: his very kingship was the Lord’s doing, and he had a prophet who could help him know the Lord’s will as well. In the end he listened to his fears and ego instead and started down the path of losing everything the Lord had given him.
Saul teaches us that separation from God doesn’t happen in an instant: little by little we subtly justify ourselves, switching our criteria for God’s, thinking that one will blend with the other until the moment comes when our criteria and his become like oil and water. Our Lord’s criteria is always the best criteria, and it always has our best interest in mind. Let’s learn from the sad case of Saul not to deceive ourselves into thinking we may know better than God.