by Father Mike Stubbs
Sunday’s first reading — 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a — presents us with the Old Testament version of a primary election.
Under instructions from God, the prophet Samuel visits Jesse in the city of Bethlehem. Samuel is there to pick out the future king of Israel from among Jesse’s sons.
While Samuel does not know the identity of the chosen one, he is confident that God will reveal it to him.
Samuel’s reputation precedes him: “When he entered Bethlehem, the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and inquired, “Is your visit peaceful, O seer?”
Samuel is known for his ability to see as God sees. That is why he was called a seer:
“In former times in Israel, anyone who went to consult God used to say, ‘Come, let us go to the seer.’ For he who is now called prophet was formerly called seer” (1 Sm 9:9). (See also 1 Sm 9:18-19). Perhaps the seer would receive insights through a vision, rather than hearing an audible message from God.
In any case, Samuel is able to look beyond the comparative advantages of the seven sons of Jesse, to instead focus upon the youngest, and apparently insignificant, son David.
Jesse had not even bothered at first to send for David when Samuel asked to see his sons. Jesse had considered David not all that important.
Nonetheless, Samuel picks David as the future king of Israel. It is the classic Cinderella story.
Despite all appearances to the contrary, David will be up to the task. This is confirmed in a later story about the young David.
Armed with only a slingshot, David engages in combat with the giant Goliath, who is protected by armor and wielding a sword.
Despite Goliath’s superior might, David defeats him. By looking at him, no one could have foreseen David’s victory.
In this instance as well, God’s words to Samuel are borne out, where it is said: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”
We might say that appearances are deceiving.
The refusal to recognize that can lead to spiritual blindness. When we focus on the superficial, we fail to see what is deeper.
We might overlook what is most important. That is why we open up our hearts to God. We want to see as God sees. That is why, in the early church, the sacrament of baptism was sometimes called “Enlightenment.”
Through that sacrament, the light of Christ is shared with us.