The Readings for Tuesday, 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (B2):
Ne respicias vultum ejus, neque altitudinem staturæ ejus: quoniam abjeci eum, nec juxta intuitum hominis ego judico: homo enim videt ea quæ parent, Dominus autem intuetur cor.
Look not on his countenance, nor on the height of his stature: because I have rejected him, nor do I judge according to the look of man: for man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart.
The Lord says to Samuel, don’t look at the tallness or his age, nor how handsome he is. God’s not out for a strongman, he’s out for a pious one. David is anointed as the King, as Messiah, even though the other king, Saul, is still living: the crown has already passed even though the ex-king doesn’t know it. His reign will be in the death-throes for a few passages yet. And David will, despite his gingerness, reign with soul. And he will be the perfect prefigurement of what Israel should be looking for when the Messiah comes, when Jesus is there.
What do we look for today in a leader?
Skills, success, brashness? Perhaps. If we are honest, though, we tend to look for “someone to say what I would say in that leadership position.” On most days, if a Media Personality or Religious Leader says what we don’t like, politically, we say, “Actors should stick to acting…” “Religion and politics should not mix…” Both of these sentiments get tossed, of course, if the Actor or Pastor says something we like. Here, at last, is a woman (or man) who tells it like it is! I’m with Him/Her! We are, unlike God, easily swayed by persons who say what we want to hear. We may even make tasteful statements about “not judging them” because only God can judge, but we are sure they are true.
So we pick a side.
And get disappointed.
God looks at the heart. We can’t, to be honest.
Who would God make your football captain? Your Manager? Your Editor? Your President? Do you honestly think the God who picked the youngest, smelliest, and most-socially awkward son of Jesse to be Messiah would pick any of our current crop of angry, muckraking, self-righteous, hypocritical (or lying) politicians? Perhaps to punish us for our sins, as he picked Saul. Maybe we have had one long line of Royal Schmucks…
After his anointing, from that day forward, David had an experience of the Spirit of the Lord that is unlike anyone until Jesus, really. The Hebrew word is צָלַח tsalach. It carries implications of “rushed upon” and “penetrate”. The gif I have in my head is one of those optical illusions that always seems to be coming at you but never gets there.
David became the Ark of the Covenant, literally. Saul never had this. Solomon becomes the embodiment of Holy Wisdom, but – even with his sins, as we know of later – from that day on, the Holy Spirit rushed upon David.
Can you imagine that being true of any politician today! The thing is, it’s supposed to be true.
Our leaders don’t have to be Christians: that’s not even a requirement. But they do have to be open to the Spirit of God (even if they don’t know what to call it). God uses what we give him and if it’s Prince Charles, or if it’s Tony Blair, or if we elect Lou Costello from beyond the grave… God will reign anyway. But there’s a huge difference between a Lech Wałęsa and a Herbert Hoover, between a Queen Beatrice and a Prime Minister Quisling. I’m trying not to be partisan in a local context because I don’t know any good guys locally, not since Jimmy Carter, anyway. God will use what we have just as surely as he used what we used to have: both in spite of themselves.
But after a while, God lets a country go: Israel, Alexander, Rome, Byzantium, Russia, whatever. They all get what they deserve for their sins and they fall apart.
Now that we do have a kingdom that shall never pass away, against whom the gates of hell shall never succeed, and we do have a leader upon whom the Spirit of the Lord continually rushes, we have a more important loyalty to which Patriotism plays only second fiddle: so it’s ok if it’s out of tune from time to time. The conductor will fix it.