The last article showed how Mother Teresa’s first step of opening a mission for the poor in Calcutta mushroomed into a force that transformed attitudes about the poorest in society and the whole caste class system. She became an icon and a saint in the process.
On October 26, 899 King Alfred the Great of England died. He has been called “one of the best kings ever to rule mankind”. Indeed, the lectionary for October 26 includes a reading of Psalm 21:1 -7, a psalm of David, suggesting parallels with that greatest of the Israelite kings.
“You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips”, declares verse 2. What was Alfred the Great’s desire? This is how he put it: “Desire for and possession of earthly power never pleased me overmuch, and I did not unduly desire this earthly rule…”
Nevertheless, he was a monarch and certain tasks were demanded of him. He said, “I desired to live worthily as long as I lived, and to leave after my life, to those who should come after me, the memory of me in good works”.
What a contrast to today’s leaders!
Local elections are just around the corner on the first Tuesday of November. There are candidates for various leadership positions. The local media has been carrying messages from the candidates and though none will admit to desiring personal gain above public service, some will, undoubtedly, be tempted to succumb to the lures of personal benefit.
In his day, Alfred the Great’s desire for resources was in “praying men, fighting men and working men”. Today’s society is more inclusive, but resources of prayer and people equipped and enabled to carry out their tasks are the same.
As we go into next week’s local elections, let us hope and pray that we will be blessed with leaders of the type of Alfred the Great.