Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass for the Unity of Christians
January 19, 2016
1 Sam 16:1-13, Ps 89, Mk 2:23-28
To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- As we near the conclusion of the Year of Consecrated Life within the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, it’s important for us to renew our deeper reflections on the meaning of vocation, the vocation we have through our baptismal consecration to belong to the Lord, the vocation we’ve received through his mercy to receive, rejoice in and share that mercy in the continuation of the Lord’s mission. Today’s readings help us to do that.
- In the first reading, we have the vocation story of David. God sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse’s house to anoint the one whom God would indicate he had chosen to be his king after he rejected Saul for his infidelity. Samuel had long served the Lord but he still looked too much with human eyes than God’s vision. When Samuel first saw Jesse’s eldest son Eliab, he thought “Surely the Lord’s anointed is here before him.” But the Lord said to him, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature.” That’s precisely what had been done with Saul, who we heard on Saturday “was a handsome young man. There was no other child of Israel more handsome than Saul; he stood head and shoulders above the people.” But God as we know rejected him. The Lord told Samuel, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” And so the presentations happened of the next six sons, but none was chosen by God. Finally, Samuel asked if there were any other boys and Jesse replied that the youngest was still tending the sheep. After he was sent for, this ruddy, youthful, handsome boy approached and the Lord said, “There. Anoint him, for this is he!” And Samuel did anoint him, so that well before he would supplant Saul as the acknowledged leader of God’s people, he would be getting prepared by “the Spirit of the Lord [who had] rushed upon him.”
- The Lord normally chooses those superficially unlikely, because he sees what we often miss. The Blessed Mother would say in her famous Magnificat, “the Lord has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid.” St. Paul would say in his first Letter to the Corinthians, “Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”
- The Lord sees the heart, but we need to ask: What was it in David’s heart that God saw? What was it in our heart that God saw?
- In David’s heart he saw the capacity for passionate fidelity not counting on human respect. David wasn’t embarrassed to dance in front of the ark of the Lord even when his loved ones taunted him for it.
- In David’s heart he saw great courage, the courage that would lead him to go against the fearsome Goliath armed just with a slingshot and the name of the Lord.
- In David’s heart he saw sincerity and the capacity to receive his mercy. After Samuel told Saul he had sinned, Saul made excuses. After Nathan told David he had sinned, David immediately repented.
- In David’s heart he saw humility and a capacity for forgiveness. David forgave Saul who was trying to kill him. He forgave his Son Absalom who tried to steal his kingdom. He forgave Shimei, who was cursing him as he was fleeing.
- In David’s heart he saw a passion for unity. Unlike Saul who tried to destroy enemies, David sought to unite, and did the two kingdoms.
- In David’s heart he ultimately saw a capacity for shepherding after his own heart. David was a young shepherd, capable of risking and giving his life for his sheep, capable of risking and giving his life for God. In him God the Father ultimately saw an image of the heart of his 28th generation grandson, the Son of David who would become the Good Shepherd.
- We see another aspect of David’s heart in the actions of that 28th generation grandson in today’s Gospel. When David and his soldiers were fighting for the Lord and were starving, the entered the shrine where Abiathar was high priest and ate the “bread of offering,” the showbread that would normally remain there for a week as an offering of the best of grains before it would replaced and then the week old bread consumed by the priests. David had a heart capable of prioritizing according to God’s will, that the Lord isn’t glorified by his sons — not to mention his soldiers — starving. That the good of the practice of the bread of offering in the temple isn’t absolute, and higher goods need to be remembered. Jesus’ heart was similar. When his apostles were starving on the Sabbath, they plucked off the heads of grain, meshed them in their hands, and ate, even though according to the Scribes and Pharisees — and not according to God — they were violating the Sabbath. The Scribes and Pharisees to prevent the people of Israel from ever getting close to breaking the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath Day, created a whole series of regulations with regard to work. We see this throughout the Gospel. They preferred that people starve rather than mesh grain a little in their hands, as if starving glorified God. They preferred that people with mangled hands waited another day so that Jesus wouldn’t do the work of loving mercy and cure them. David’s heart saw God’s will more clearly than the Scribes and Pharisees did, and it was one of the reasons why he was chosen.
- God in his eternal vision likewise saw something in our hearts that led him to call us. He probably saw a similar capacity for passionate fidelity even though many of our contemporaries would think that we’re crazy for giving up the money, the control, the sex and earthly loves of the world in order to bind ourselves to the poor, obedient and chaste Christ. God saw in us the courage to do what others were persuading us not to do, and the courage to persevere. God saw in us the capacity of humbly receiving his mercy, letting our life be defined by it, and forgiving others, including those who have really hurt us. He saw in us a capacity for shepherding through spiritual fatherhood and motherhood, for nurturing and for our willingness to lay down our lives for the sake of those entrusted to us, however small and vulnerable. He saw in us a passion and commitment for unity, something that he will give his grace to enlarge during this Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity; and one of the real graces of the Year of Consecrated Life for the whole Church is to see in the unity of those consecrated communities something that is supposed to radiate throughout the entire Church. He saw in us ultimately something that reminded him of the love of the heart of his Son. And he chose us and anointed us from early in life so that we might correspond to that vocation.
- As we come forward today to this Mass, we prepare not to sacrifice a heifer but ourselves together with the Lord. In the great miracle of Lanciano, when 1300 years the host took on the accidents of human heart wall, something confirmed only in anatomical and histological tests in the 1970s, we can get a glimpse that in every Mass, the Lord seeks to give us a heart transplant, to give us his own heart together with his entire Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, so that our hearts may become increasingly pure and see and revere him in everything; so that our hearts may beat in synchrony with his and continue loving as he loves us first. Today at this Mass, in gratitude for our vocations and the way the Lord called us like he called David, in gratitude for our Christian vocations for the least in the kingdom is greater than all born of women, we turn to God and we ask him for the grace ultimately to be faithful to this calling through cooperating with the Holy Spirit with whom he has anointed us!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
1 SM 16:1-13
“How long will you grieve for Saul,
whom I have rejected as king of Israel?
Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”
But Samuel replied:
“How can I go?
Saul will hear of it and kill me.”
To this the LORD answered:
“Take a heifer along and say,
‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’
Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I myself will tell you what to do;
you are to anoint for me the one I point out to you.”Samuel did as the LORD had commanded him.
When he entered Bethlehem,
the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and inquired,
“Is your visit peaceful, O seer?”
“Yes! I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.
So cleanse yourselves and join me today for the banquet.”
He also had Jesse and his sons cleanse themselves
and invited them to the sacrifice.
As they came, he looked at Eliab and thought,
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because he sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
Then Jesse called Abinadab and presented him before Samuel,
who said, “The LORD has not chosen him.”
Next Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said,
“The LORD has not chosen this one either.”
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,
but Samuel said to Jesse,
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him;
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold
and making a splendid appearance.
The LORD said,
“There–anoint him, for this is he!”
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,
anointed him in the midst of his brothers;
and from that day on, the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.
When Samuel took his leave, he went to Ramah.
PS 89:20, 21-22, 27-28
Once you spoke in a vision,
and to your faithful ones you said:
“On a champion I have placed a crown;
over the people I have set a youth.”
R. I have found David, my servant.
“I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
That my hand may be always with him,
and that my arm may make him strong.”
R. I have found David, my servant.
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
And I will make him the first-born,
highest of the kings of the earth.”
R. I have found David, my servant.
his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain.
At this the Pharisees said to him,
“Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”
He said to them,
“Have you never read what David did
when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry?
How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest
and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat,
and shared it with his companions?”
Then he said to them,
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.
That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”