A HOMILY DELIVERED ON THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT AT ST. PETER’S CHAPLAINCY, UNN
Otito Diri Jesu!
Last Sunday, we reflected the homily from the first reading and concluded with the gospel. But today, we shall begin with the gospel and conclude with the first reading. However, there is a close similarity between the two reflections because we shall dwell more on the first reading ( 1Sam. 16:1-13) just like we did last Sunday on Ex.17 : 3-7. This is predicated on the fact that the gospels of the two Sundays are voluminous (about 41 verses). And I like being detailed on a particular passage within the fewest minutes that is not up to 15 minutes for Sunday homilies.
In the gospel of today (Jn.9:1-41), the man born blind increasingly see more clearly until he comes to full faith. The Pharisees on the other hand by denying facts becomes increasingly blind because they were prejudiced against the divinity of Christ who performed miracle on a Sabbath day. Every effort of the Pharisees was geared towards projecting that the man was never blind. Even to the point of threatening both the man and his parents to accept such. But the man who has been cured stood firm in accepting that Jesus comes from God.
Another interesting aspect of the gosel that can lead us to the first reading is Jesus response to his disciples in John 9:4. Lending credence to the Jewish tradition which holds that every suffering is caused by sin, the disciples asked him; “Master, why was this man born blind? Because of his own sins or those of his parents?” A very funny tradition. Could it have been that the man who was born blind sinned in his mother’s womb and God cursed him to lose his sight? Well, thanks to Jesus for that beautiful clarification in which he answered” neither his own sins nor those of his parents; he was born blind so that God’s work might be revealed in him”. This response of Jesus is also a criticism of negative aspects of African culture. When twins were feared and killed, girls whose breast did not develop were put to death, an infertile man or woman was despised. These are rather occasion for God to show his glory and strengthen our Faith in Him.
Very unfortunate too, many are of the view that the recent epidemic was sent by a loving God in order to punish humanity for their sins. By implication, those who have died as result of Covid 19 (perhaps in an attempt to save others) are the worst of all sinners. Whereas those of us who have not been infected are by that empty fact, most righteous. Such shallow minded religious beliefs should be discouraged among us Christians. Our Blessed Lord says, this is an occasion for God to show his glory and for us to be strengthened in our faith relationship with him.
Besides, just like the blind man, it is in the midst of trials, persecutions and difficulties that we understand the full import of the two words “I believe”. Thus, suffering and the cross are no longer curses but a source of life upon which God has a better plan for his people.
No wonder in the 1st reading, God rebuked Samuel as he lamented exceedingly the loss of Saul as the king of Israel. It was actually a cross for the people of Israel who believed so much in Saul as their strongest defender, but God had a better plan. Even as Saul pleaded for forgiveness to be freed from that punishment of rejection, God did not repent where as when David was found in a similar situation 2 Sam.12, God repented. Why Saul is not forgiven remains a mystery unresolved for us readers. However, we are certain of one thing; the choice of Saul was of human initiative not God’s. The lord’s plan for Israel continues to unfold even when complicated or thwarted by human initiative. Saul was one such initiative. Now that his failure is clear, and his rejection declared, the Lord can create a new beginning for a monarchy of his choosing.
This new initiative is what began in the 1st reading (1 Sam. 16:1-13). A transition from rejection to selection of a new anointed. As he rightly declared in Psalm 89:20, and Acts. 13:22: “Now I will provide myself one, a man after my own heart.”
Moreover, there are close similarities between the anointing of David and of Saul. Both are carried out by Samuel under a cloak of secrecy and after each anointing, the Spirit of the Lord rushes upon the anointed. Yet there are striking differences; Here in 1 Samuel 16:4-13, the Lord is much more prominent in directing Samuel and explicit in naming his choice. David is chosen by no human process, only by the voice of God, and the decisive criterion applied by the Lord was not seniority but suitability. Saul was anointed with a glass vial of oil, scanty and brittle while David was with a horn of oil more plentiful and durable.
Let us then reflect on how the choice was actually divine.
The Lord sent Samuel to Bethlehem, the city of David and here will be born Jesus, ten centuries later. If the sons of Jesse were told that God would provide a king among them as in 1 Samuel 16:1, we may well suppose they all made the best appearance they could but God rejected all the seven in a descending order of seniority; Eliab, Abinadab, Shama and others.
It was strange that Samuel almost repeated the same mistake made in the choice of Saul by countenance and stature but God rectified it. We can tell how men look but God tells what they are. God judges not by their mien but their minds. Men dispose their honors and estates to their sons according to their seniority of age and priority of birth, but God does not.
It was against this backdrop that David was pitched upon, the youngest son of Jesse whose name signified beloved. Let us observe the following:
David was left in the fields keeping the sheep when there was a sacrifice and a feast at his Father’s house. This tells us how God exults those whom men despise. Therefore, if you are finding yourself in a condition similar to David’s pitiable situation, in your field of work or study, keep kipping on, God will surely remember you and pitch his grace of stupendous success upon you.
Another observation speaks more on the nature of David magnificent exaltation. In 1 Samuel 16:11, the prophet Samuel said; we shall not sit to meat until he arrives. He that was abandoned to the field as a common shepherd was now waited for the feast as the principal guest. If God exalts those of low degree who can hinder?
Another observation is his appearance when he came. He did not change his clothes as Joseph did in Genesis 41:14 before Pharaoh when he was brought out of prison. This is predicated on the fact that before God, appearance does not count. Even though, he did not change his clothes, he had a very honest look, not stately as Saul but sweet and lovely with a good eye. Not minding the scorching sun in the field, his features were extraordinary, and there was something in his looks that was very charming, yet no makeup. In fact, his nature was so divinely made in the finest definition and the elements of beauty so mixed in him that nature could rise and say this is the man. This goes to tell us that the sterling beauty of a man or woman is not by six packs, figure 8 or make ups, it is rather characteristically inborn in us with moral credibility. This reminds me of the experience I had yesterday at Connais studio beside Ekpo Ref. Don’t ask me what I went there to do. Lol… At the studio, I saw young ladies who came there naturally beautiful only to enter a makeup room and come out with apparently a different face altogether. This is how they keep deceiving themselves until they fall into a man that will like them for their mask face and not for a moral beauty. And when infatuation fails, marital crisis will rise. David allowed his natural beauty and moral integrity to speak for him in such a way that when Samuel received him with a surprising respect, David was modestly blushing, which made him look much the handsomer.
We could also observe that his anointing was immediate in obedience to divine command signifying a divine designation to the government, and a divine communication of gifts and graces to fit him for the government. Although his brothers could not understand the nature of that anointing, less they envy as Joseph’s brothers did him. Yet it was not an empty ceremony because a divine power was communicated and from that day forward, he found himself inwardly advanced in wisdom and courage and concern for the public. He gathered unasuming strenght to slew the lion and the bear, and even to defeat the so called almighty philistine soldier named Goliath. His extraordinary skill in music identified him as the sweetest Psalmist in Israel.
For us to be sealed with the same spirit of promise and experience a work of grace in our lives, we have a lot to learn from David.
Peace be with You.