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Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.
We really have to be careful when we claim we can see what the risen Jesus wants us to do in our everyday lives. Not only were Samuel and the blind beggar expected to look at people and situations with new eyes, so are we.
MARCH 22nd, 2020 FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
I Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
One really must know the background of today’s I Samuel reading to appreciate what the sacred author is trying to tell us.
This event takes place in the late 11th century BCE while Saul, a rather unstable king, is on the Jewish throne. When Samuel, the last of the judges, complains to Yahweh about the situation, Yahweh tells him to commit high treason: to anoint another king – one of Jesse’s sons. Samuel wisely camouflages his visit to Bethlehem by announcing he’s going to conduct a communion sacrifice at Jesse’s house, not anoint a new king. That’s where today’s narrative kicks in.
One of the reasons Samuel originally anointed Saul as Israel’s first king was because he “stood head and shoulders” above all the country’s warriors. As the late Frank Cleary once observed, “He could knock heads better than anyone else.” So we presume Samuel is simply looking to replace Saul with another – more stable - head-knocker.
When none of Jesse’s seven sons proves to be the king Yahweh wants, Samuel bribes the protesting father to bring in the runt of the litter who’s out watching the family flock: “We will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.” Hearing peoples’ stomachs growling, Jesse has no choice. When David finally comes into the house and is anointed, we find the truth in Yahweh’s remark, “Not as humans see does God see, because humans see the appearance, but Yahweh looks into the heart.”
The sacred author is telling us not to trust our eyes. We only see correctly what God’s Spirit leads us to see; a Spirit which always expects us to go deeper than appearances.
That seems to be why the Pauline disciple responsible for the letter to the Ephesians creates a powerful contrast between light and darkness. “You were once in darkness,” he reminds his community, “but now you are light in the Lord.” Then quoting from what seems to have been an early Christian baptismal hymn, he pens the memorable words, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Only through the risen Jesus’ Spirit are we able to see what others never seem to notice.
This is the same theme behind John’s well-known narrative of the blind beggar. Unlike the Jesus we find in the Synoptics, John’s Jesus doesn’t demand faith as a condition for working miracles. For the fourth evangelist, faith only comes after the miracle, not before. In this case his blind beggar doesn’t ask Jesus for sight. He simply rubs mud in his eyes, tells him to wash it out, and suddenly the man sees. At that point he also begins to see Jesus with the light of faith – gradually.
When he initially talks to his neighbors and friends about his unexpected sight, he simply refers to his benefactor as “the man called Jesus.” Later, when Jewish leaders interrogate him about the event, he dares go one step further: “He is a prophet,” he proclaims. Finally, toward the end of the pericope, “he worshipped him.” His new-found sight eventually enables him to see this Galilean carpenter as God.
No one who’s heard the entire chapter can miss the meaning in Jesus’ final condemnation of the Pharisees: “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”
We really have to be careful when we claim we can see what the risen Jesus wants us to do in our everyday lives. Not only were Samuel and the blind beggar expected to look at people and situations with new eyes, so are we. It always takes ever-new, Spirit-filled eyes to actually “learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
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