Most of the people in the Bible didn't learn
about God through the Bible. They simply discovered God's working in their
own lives. There are occasions when this experience started only after
someone first observed what Yahweh was doing in the life of another, then
reflected on how the same thing was happening to him or her.
No one was more "reflected on" at the
beginning of the first millennium before Christ than King David. The first
reading (1 Sm 16: 1,6-7,10-13) not only gives an example of how God worked
in David's life, but also provides a pattern for how God worked in the
lives of other biblical characters.
Have you noticed that Isaac, Jacob and Judah
weren't the first-born in their families? In each case, there was at least
one older brother whom Yahweh pushed aside to choose "also-rans"
to become great patriarchs. Scripture scholars remind us that the Genesis
stories of these famous men were composed after the event narrated in the
first reading and were highly influenced by it.
Samuel is about to commit an act of treason:
anointing a new king while Saul, the old king, is still on the throne. He
disguises his actions by pretending to go to Jesse's Bethlehem home to
offer a communion sacrifice, something in which all Jews loved to
participate. (There was lots of food!) Actually, his mission was to anoint
one of Jesse's sons king.
The sacred author makes much of Samuel's
thinking he knows which boy is royal material by simply looking at him. But,
seven times, Yahweh re-minds him, "Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance but Yahweh looks into the heart."
Because Jesse can't believe none of his boys
has been divinely chosen, Samuel must employ a bribe to force him to bring
in "the youngest who is tending the sheep." "We will not
begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here!"
When David eventually walks in the door, Yahweh
proclaims, "There! Anoint him, for this is the one!" Lest anyone
miss the point, the sacred author states, "From that day on, Yahweh's
spirit rushed upon David."
This divine "rushing" takes effect
without God's being impeded by the limits we habitually impose on His
actions. Though most people in Israel thought Yahweh worked only through
first-born males, David's experience provided an example for others to
The phenomenon also provided Paul a basis for
seeing how his community of believers in Ephesus had within them the
"light" which "produces every kind of goodness, and
righteousness and truth" (Eph 5: 8-14). Only by going through life with
eyes shut could we ignore God's working through us, no matter our birth
rank or gender. That's why Paul breaks into an ancient Christian hymn:
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you
It's this light which the man born blind
receives long after he's received his physical sight (John 9: 1-41). That
light arrives when he starts to believe that Jesus, the Son of Man, is also
God. God grants him light so he can see the divine light in Jesus.
As a Scripture scholar, I long ago stopped
"praying for vocations." There's no need to pray for something
we already have. For over 3,000 years, God's followers have presumed God's
spirit is constantly rushing upon ourselves and the people around us. I
simply pray that we're able to awake from sleep, and break down the
barriers which stop us and our leaders from acknowledging the Spirit's
For us modern Catholics, it might be good to
reflect on what bribe God is employing today to force us to bring the
"kid" in from the fields.