Today’s first Mass reading, from the First Book of Samuel, reminds us that God doesn’t always make choices in the way we might expect. God tells Samuel to go to Jesse of Bethlehem, telling him that God has chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be his king.
As the first son, Eliab, is presented to him – doubtless the oldest, perhaps the most impressive, Samuel is sure, based on Eliab’s “appearance and his lofty stature,” that this must be the one. But God tells him no. One by one, seven of Jesse’s sons are brought forth and rejected. When Samuel asks if there are any others, Jesse (dismissively, one imagines) mentions his “youngest, who is tending the sheep.” When the youth, David, is brought in, God tells Samuel to “anoint him, for this is he!”
As God tells Samuel, “Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”
We are often fooled by appearances. It is easy for us to make judgments about people based on all sorts of external factors – their age, their stature or other aspects of how they look, how they speak, etc. Just as Samuel looked at Jesse’s Eliab and thought, surely this must be the one God intends, we make assumptions about who is “best” or who deserves certain positions or honors.
Today’s reading reminds us that we see only certain things – and often not the most important things, which means that not only should we be less quick to judge, but that we should be more open to choices that don’t seem to accord with ones we would have made. It also invites us to strive, as much as we can, to see as God sees.