How We See

Today’s first Mass reading, from the First Book of Samuel, is an important reminder that God does not see as we see and does not always act in ways we would expect.

After God rejects Saul as a ruler (of which we heard in yesterday’s first Mass reading), 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. Doubtless everyone else in the room thought the same. But God tells him no, saying “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, becuase he sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”

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!”

“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.

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