There was a tradition throughout the Bible of the youngest and most insignificant being chosen by God. David, the youngest son of Jesse, was God’s choice and Samuel anointed him king of Israel. Wikimedia Commons

God's Word on Sunday: Judgment lies in reading the human heart

  • March 15, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 22 (Year A) 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7,10-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Do not judge by outward appearances! We would save ourselves a lot of grief if we would only heed these instructions from God to Samuel. It has been repeated by Jesus in the Gospel of John and many spiritual writers since then.

People are easily taken in by pleasing appearances and our whole culture is based on this tendency. “Lookism” is our downfall. Physical beauty, body characteristics, speech patterns, wittiness, clothing and a host of other things determine a person’s worth in the eyes of many.

But appearances often deceive, sometimes tragically, for a person can be radically different from how they might appear. Killers can have baby faces and holy people feet of clay. “Unattractive” individuals often radiate wisdom, kindness and generosity.

The reading urges us to imitate God, who reads human hearts rather than faces. But this requires that we suspend immediate judgment and labelling. Often what a person will say or do in unguarded moments or how they treat others on a daily basis tells us a lot more about them.

On a mission to anoint a new king of Israel, Samuel was warned not to be taken in by how handsome or strong the sons of Jesse appeared to be. As each was led into his presence, he was certain that this had to be the chosen one. But each time, God told him otherwise. They all failed God’s unblinking and penetrating gaze.

Finally, they called the youngest, who was not even present. As the youngest, he would not even have been considered. But there was a tradition throughout the Bible of the youngest and most insignificant being chosen by God. David was God’s choice and Samuel anointed him king of Israel.

God read David’s heart and saw the goodness and devotion, despite his human weaknesses that would later become evident. He was considered Israel’s greatest king and was an ancestor of Jesus. 

In biblical terms, those who are spiritually unaware are either asleep or dead. The ringing call of Ephesians is for sleepers to awake and the dead to rise and live as children of the light.

How are we to do that? The answer is clear — avoid the works of darkness. Immediately the more obvious examples — usually physical indulgence — come to mind. But perhaps we need to dig a little deeper.

Works of darkness can include our many words, thoughts and deeds that we do unthinkingly each day. Unkindness, prejudice, judgment, fear-mongering, gossiping, selfishness, injustice and exclusion all qualify as works of darkness.

Being a child of light means thinking, speaking and acting like one.

On the surface, the story of Jesus healing the man born blind is an account of physical healing. But on a deeper level, it describes spiritual awakening and enlightenment.

Jesus healed a man blind from birth, and it was on the sabbath. In the ensuing controversy with the religious authorities, they accused him of being a fraud and even doubted whether he was the blind man who used to beg. The crux of their argument was that Jesus was a sinner, since He had broken the sabbath.

God does not listen to sinners; therefore, Jesus couldn’t have healed him. But the man had been spiritually awakened — he knew he was healed so Jesus must be from God. He understood what they could not because he did not judge superficially. They expelled him from their presence.

Jesus sought him out and asked him if he believed in the Son of Man and the man came to a full expression of faith in Jesus. Jesus announced enigmatically that He had come into the world to give sight to the blind and to blind those who could see.

When the indignant authorities reproved Him for implying that they were blind, Jesus dropped the bombshell. Being blind, either physically or metaphorically, is not a sin. But to claim to see and understand when one does not, and to cling stubbornly to that illusion, is a sin.

And that is at the root of much of the world’s rancour and hatred — everyone is “right” and possesses the “truth” and is unwilling to really listen to others. This poisons politics, religion, economics, culture and society.

Perhaps we need to examine things through the eyes of God. Things are not always as they seem.