A reading from the First Book of Samuel
(Chapter 16:1,6, 6-7, 10-13a)
Saul had been chosen to be the first ruler of the united Israelite kingdom. He was anointed by Samuel, but then God rejected Saul because of his disobedience. Israel needed a new king, and God had chosen one of Jesse’s seven mature sons. All seven were presented to Samuel, and all seven were rejected. Then Samuel asked Jesse if he had any other sons, and Jesse presented David, who was only a teen. He was the one that God chose. God said, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”
How do you and I see? Do we judge by appearances, or do we look into the heart of each person and not judge them superficially? Our society seems to judge mostly by appearances: “the beautiful people” and the rich and famous receive most of the media attention and accolades. We know that is wrong, but it is easy to become seduced by the appearances and wealth of the “stars” of entertainment, politics, sports, and business and miss the depth of the persons in our midst who are truly genuine if not glamorous.
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Jesus called himself “The Good Shepherd”. The term shepherd in his time was a symbol for extreme caring. The shepherd endured the heat of the day and the cold of night as well as the dangers of the dessert and the mountains. That kind of dedication is how Jesus cares for us today but we need to accept his care that is always there even when we do not feel it.
A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians
“Brothers and sisters: you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”
Have you ever walked into a totally dark room and could not find the light switch? It can be scary, but then you find the switch. Let there be light! People in the time of Jesus—long before the advent of electricity—spent more time in darkness or semi-darkness than we do. They had a stronger connection to light because of its absence for so much of their lives. St. Paul, in this passage, wants to make the point to the people of Ephesus that, through baptism in the Lord, they have found a powerful light, a light that they can live in and reflect.
Have you ever felt that you were in spiritual darkness, far away from God? Where was the light? Where was God? Perhaps it was because of something that you did or failed to do, but maybe not. Maybe it was just a horrible situation that you found yourself in that you did not create and could not remedy. Look for the light. At times such as that, you might find it in prayer or in the loving care or advice from someone you trust or even from some random person or event that you never expected. The light is always there. We live in the light. Sometimes we just need to find the switch.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
This is the famous story of Jesus healing the man born blind, and once again we experience the contrast between light and darkness, this time the darkness of blindness. In ancient times, blindness was often considered God’s punishment for wrongdoing on the part of the blind person or his or her family, and the person was ostracized. Although the episode described in this gospel passage occurred on the Sabbath Jesus did not hesitate. He did not tell the man, “Come back tomorrow.” Instead, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” He healed on the Sabbath, and that angered the Pharisees, who were the strict observers of the more than 600 Jewish religious laws. When John uses the term “the Jews” in an accusation, he does not mean the whole people, but rather the leaders who could not see beyond the letter of the Law and those whom they misled. The anti-Semitism that has plagued the world ever since, is not founded in the gospels and is a serious sin against the spirit and law of Jesus.
Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Moses and focus on its two major commandments—love God and love your neighbor. These two commandments were then and are now what the true Law is all about.
Jesus was a healer, and there are multiple examples of him healing people who were in need. His healings were never to prove his divinity but rather to help those afflicted. Have you ever asked Jesus for a healing of any kind? When you were a child, you may have thought that Jesus answered prayers for healing and anything else as magical. There was and is no magic in the healings of Jesus in the gospels or today. His healings for us take time and patience and may not be the healings that we had in mind, but they are precious gifts if we can see and hear them and, most important, accept them on his terms and in his time.
Painting: Healing of the Man Born Blind by Doménikos Theotokópoulos (El Greco), 1567. Public domain.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.