Fr Robert Warren
1st Samuel 16:1-13
Seven sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite are each paraded before the prophet Samuel and no, it appears that none of them is quite right. God himself had told the prophet to anoint, as King, the one that he would point out from among Jesse's sons. The passage from 1st Samuel relates an ongoing interior conversation between God and Samuel as the boys each walk by:
"No, not that one - and not that one. Still no joy - this isn't him either."
Jesse is unaware of Samuel's deeper purpose. He simply presents seven of his eight sons to a visiting prophet - a great man - who has paid them the honor of a visit. Jesse brings out the cream of his crop: strong boys - articulate and presentable. David, the eighth son, could reasonably be kept out of sight in a supporting role. After all, somebody needs to cover the chores and duties of his older brothers. It is this forgotten eighth son who Samuel eventually calls for.
As a group, all three readings for this Sunday take discernment as their theme - either the choice in discerning a forward path or the wisdom in discerning why things work out the way they do. It's Lent: We'd do well to ask ourselves why we make the decisions we do and set the priorities we live by. How do we make decisions for ourselves and for others? How do we listen to God? Do we, in fact, have that many options about how to conduct our lives?
We would be challenged, by this first reading from the Old Testament, to ask ourselves what we do not put on the table when we chart a forward path. What do we discount because of prejudice? What do we forget or neglect to mention because of shame? Our friends and our enemies are both curious about the things we avoid in conversations. Employers will always ask specifically about items we gloss over on our CV. Try as we might to avoid the subject, our parents will always identify the one bit of homework which hasn't been done. That's what's important. That's what piques their interest.
The Old and New Testament are shot through with stories of God doing great things by using, as his starting point, what has been forgotten, neglected, overlooked, avoided, scorned or fibbed about. The raw material for your next step may already be on your person. You shouldn't be surprised to find it in your back pocket.