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Homily for Tuesday of the 2nd Wk in Ordinary Time, 18 Jan 2022, 1Sam 16, 1-13, Mk 2:23-28

Our alleluia verse today is a quotation from Ephesians 1:17-18, where Paul prays the following blessing for the Ephesian community, “May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.”

It is obviously an echo of that part of our first reading where the Lord rebukes the prophet for being unable to identify the one he was being asked to anoint as new leader for Israel, as replacement for Saul. There, the Lord says to Samuel, “God does not see as human beings do. You see the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”

The writer tells us the old prophet was grieving for Saul. Why was he grieving for a man who wasn’t even dead yet? King Saul was obviously still alive, but he had become a different man. He had been corrupted by power. He was no longer the man the Lord had earlier asked Samuel to anoint for leadership in Israel.

The author tells us that Samuel had instructed Jesse and his sons to join him in offering a sacrifice, so as not to make it too obvious that he was already preparing for an election. Saul had become a dictator and dictators do not want to hear of an election, you know. And so Samuel had to be more discrete. In fact, the old prophet expresses his apprehension to God. He said, “If Saul hears about this he will kill me.”

But unknown to him, his purpose was obvious to everyone in Bethlehem. The author says the elders of the city were trembling when they met him because they knew his purpose. And the sons of Jesse were excited because they knew anyone of them might be chosen by the prophet.

The visit of Samuel to Bethlehem reminds me of the fairy tale CINDERELLA, about the prince who goes out in search of the owner of the glass shoe Cinderella had left behind in the palace. All the other women in the kingdom were too eager to be tested, perchance the shoe might fit their foot and they would qualify to marry the prince and become a future queen.

In our first reading, the equivalent of Cinderella is David. While his brothers were all very enthusiastic about being sized up by Samuel, the young David was not. That is why he was not with them. He was more concerned about looking after his flock as a shepherd. He was not interested in power. And I think, this is what God saw in his heart, which Samuel did not see—the heart of a Good Shepherd. It is what the Lord was looking for in a prospective leader for Israel.

David here is like the hobbit Frodo in The Lord of the Ring, who was the only one who could not be corrupted by the enchanted ring because he had a pure heart.

They say “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. That is why Satan has always dangled it as a delicious fruit to human beings since the beginning of creation. Remember how he persuaded Adam and Eve? “No, you shall not die if you eat of it. You will be like God… Don’t you like that?”

Up to now, there are many people who feel and behave as if they were God the moment they are made to wear the ring of power; they begin to think they are the Lord and forget about the Lord of the ring.

Being one like us in humanity, Jesus knew he was also vulnerable to the lure of power. He counteracted it through KENOSIS, a total renunciation of power through self-emptying. That was how he kept his heart in the right place.

Saul could no longer carry out what God had anointed him for because his heart had become dull and hardened. He had been blinded by power.

Christianity’s antidote to the delusion that power brings is the acclamation that we recite after that prayer of deliverance from evil that we recite at Mass after the OUR FATHER. When we are entrusted with power and Satan tries to massage our ego to make our heads grow big, it is then that we need to fix our eyes on God, the one true source of power and say, “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever.”

Only in the self-deprecating attitude of a humble steward entrusted with power can the eyes of our hearts remain clear-sighted. Perhaps we should reformulate the Beatitude of Jesus and say instead, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see as God sees.”

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