Vol. 6, No. 27
We pray for the grace to be enlightened by Christ and his spirit of Truth, that we may see ourselves as Jesus sees us, trust in him, and receive the grace of true repentance.
Daughters of Mary Instruction
21 March 2017
Lynn D. Clapper
On the Fourth Sunday in Lent, John’s gospel tells us the story of Jesus and the man born blind. A simple story, really, of one of the many healing miracles Jesus performed during his public ministry, the tale of the man born blind is considered by John to be the best revelation of Jesus as the light of the world. While John tells this story in typical dramatic fashion, full of conversation and intrigue, in Sunday’s reading from the first book of Samuel we find an even simpler tale that offers us a glimpse of the special light that God has always offered to those chosen to follow him.
First and Second Samuel are part of the early history of the ancient Hebrew people. Placed in the Catholic canon after the book of Judges and the book of Ruth, Samuel tells the story of how the twelve tribes of Israel cried out for a king like the other nations. The time was an unsettled one in Israel’s history. Joshua, under the guidance of Yahweh, had led the people through the conquest of the land that was only partially successful. Despite Yahweh’s command to destroy the indigenous Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites, Moabites, and Perizzites that were living in the land Yahweh had promised Abraham, Israel was never able to eliminate these peoples completely. The twelve tribes of Israel, each allotted their own territory, settled uncomfortably in the land.
They were constantly at war. The book of Judges describes a political and cultural situation that grew more and more chaotic as the years passed, but it also describes how Yahweh continually raised up military leaders, or judges, who delivered the tribes from impending destruction at the hands of the pagan peoples who resented the Hebrews’ invasion into their land. At the beginning of the story, the tribes of Israel warred with these pagan peoples. By the end of Judges, the tribes of Israel were at war with each other. “In those days, there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own sight” (Judges 21: 25). Having now turned away from Yahweh and his law, Israel began to cry out for a king.
But, if Israel was to have a king like the other nations, it would be on Yahweh’s terms. In the book of Ruth we find a surprising tale that plants the first seeds of the house of Jesse. Ruth was a Moabite woman, a pagan by birth, who pledged an oath to remain with her Israelite mother-in-law following the death of her husband. She remarried Boaz of Bethlehem, and became the grandmother of Jesse, great-grandmother of David, and ancestor of Joseph. In the most unexpected of ways, the royal line of the house of David was set in place.
The history of the monarchy in Israel, however, is not Samuel’s story on the Fourth Sunday in Lent. The last of the Judges of Israel, Samuel was the leader, and ultimately, a prophet, who helped guide Israel in its transition to the monarchy. Skeptical of Israel’s cry for a king other than Yahweh, Samuel carried out Yahweh’s instructions regarding the selection and anointing of a king, even as Samuel warned Israel of the dangers down the road monarchy posed for Yahweh’s chosen people. Samuel first anointed Saul, a tall and handsome man from the little tribe of Benjamin, who Yahweh rejected early in his kingship because of Saul’s refusal to honor Yahweh’s word to Samuel. An aggrieved Samuel then followed Yahweh’s direction to the tiny town of Bethlehem to find a man named Jesse who was father to seven sons. “How long will you grieve for Saul, whom I have rejected as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for from among his sons I have decided on a king” (1Samuel 16: 1).
As the oldest of Jesse’s sons was presented to Samuel, however, Samuel heard the words of the Lord. “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart” (1Samuel 16:7). At Yahweh’s instruction, Samuel then rejected the other five brothers one by one, asking at the end for the seventh son. “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, but he is tending the sheep” (1Samuel 16: 11). The young, ruddy, and good looking David was called out of the fields and brought to Samuel, who immediately anointed him in front of all his brothers. Yahweh had found his king.
We might question why the Church pairs John’s gospel of the man born blind with Samuel’s story of David’s anointing as king of Israel. But, Yahweh’s own words tell us why. “God does not see as a mortal…The Lord looks into the heart.” In choosing for his king the youngest of seven sons who should never have amounted to anything more than to be a shepherd who loved his sheep, the Lord set over Israel a king who was revered by the ancient Hebrews for over a thousand years. If Israel would have a king, the king would be a man after God’s own heart.
On the Second Sunday of Scrutiny, Jesus Christ reminds anyone who is listening that God looks into the hearts of the people he chooses to follow him. Whether he is persuading a reluctant Moses to deliver an enslaved people into the wilderness, choosing a king in answer to his wayward people’s cry, inviting a tax collector or a fisherman to follow him, going out of his way to meet a Samaritan woman, healing a man born blind, forgiving a criminal as he hangs on the cross, knocking a zealous Jew off his horse on the way to Damascus, or urging you and me to meet with the Daughters of Mary each Tuesday, God has looked into the hearts of his chosen people since he called Abram to leave his home and travel to a land he would show him. Lindsay’s beautiful commentary will tell us Jesus of Nazareth is the light of the world.
As the Lenten season sets in around us, we know that in only a few weeks more, Jesus of Nazareth will call us to follow him to Jerusalem, where he will be condemned to death, and die on a cross. While we began this Lenten season by following Jesus into a desert to suffer the temptations of the devil, Jesus now challenges us to see the world through the eyes of a man born blind. We are searching for a king, and we have found him in Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is our God. He has chosen us to be his people. He has looked into our hearts, and despite whoever we are, and whatever we have been, he has called us to follow him.