Reading I: 1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Reading II: Eph 5:8-14
Gospel: John 9:1-41
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” my mom was fond of saying, particularly when I came to a quick judgment about someone. The Prophet Samuel and Jesus’ disciples should have followed my mom’s advice in today’s readings. “Not as a person does God see, because a person sees the appearance, but the LORD looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).
The reading from the first book of Samuel introduces David, the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem. At the request of the people, God had allowed the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as ruler over the people (1 Sam 10:1), but Saul proved unworthy. Samuel is sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king from among the sons of Jesse. Judging by appearance, Samuel mistakes the oldest as the Lord’s chosen. But God corrects him, “Not as human beings see does God see.” It is the youngest son, David, whom God has chosen. As Samuel anoints him, the Spirit of the Lord rushes upon him. David will prove a worthy ruler. After Saul’s death, David will be made king of Judah (2 Sam 2:4).
In the Letter to the Ephesians, we are encouraged to stay in the light and avoid the fruitless works of darkness. If we live in the light as children of light, we will produce goodness, justice, and truth.
And in our gospel, we meet a man whom Jesus heals, but that is just part of the story. Jesus doesn’t see a person with limitations, but one who will give glory to God. The evangelist introduces him as a person (anthropos in the Greek) who was born blind. His humanity, not his infirmity, leads the introduction. In fact, his blindness isn’t caused by sin, as the disciples presume. “Don’t judge this person by what you see or think of him,” Jesus seems to say to his disciples. “His blindness will allow the works of God to be made visible” (John 9:3).
This is the sixth sign or miracle which Jesus has performed (water into wine in Cana, 2:1-11; royal official’s son restored to life, 4:46-54; healing of the crippled man at Bethesda, 5:1-9; feeding the multitude, 6:1-15; walking on the water, 6:16-21). The seventh and final sign is the raising of Lazarus (11:1-14), which foreshadows Jesus’ own death and resurrection. Each sign serves to reveal Jesus’ identity and confirm his disciples’ belief in him.
The man healed in today’s Gospel is twice brought before the religious leaders to explain who restored his vision. Throughout the story, the man has held his own. He didn’t invite Jesus’ healing. By all appearances, he was going about his life. The man is given physical sight, but as the narrator presents, he is also given spiritual insight. He recognizes his healer as a prophet and a man from God. The Samaritan woman at the well—another person who seemingly stood outside the mainstream—had earlier recognized Jesus as prophet (4:19) and messiah (4:29).
In the remaining weeks of Lent, we might do well to take my mom’s advice to heart. How often do we make a decision about a person or situation based solely on what we see or think we see? If Samuel had done that, he would have anointed Judah. If the disciples saw only a blind sinner and not a man who happened to be blind, they too would have missed the point. Perhaps if we take Ephesians’ encouragement to heart and walk in the light, we might be better able to read both the book and its cover.