It was the first night of my first real job, second night of living in a new state! My mom and I had just moved back to Indiana. I was 20 years old, shy, quiet, wouldn’t look people in the eye, speak to someone I didn’t know, or instigate a conversation with anyone. I had gotten to work early so I could get a coke and relax before I started my first shift as a cook for Hardee’s. I glanced around the room and at another table up at the front was a girl wearing a Hardee’s uniform, and two other people with her. One looked like a thug. Scruffy hair and unshaven, t-shirt with the arms cut off, jeans with holes in them, and a look on his face that he would rather tear you apart than share the air with you.
So I kept my eyes down and tried to stay invisible. Well, it didn’t work. At one point I glanced up to see what was going on at that table, they were laughing and enjoying life. And who do I see staring at me? Him. And if his eyes could have bored holes I would have been dead. He sees me glance up, holds my attention and flips me off.
I was panicking inside, but I knew I couldn’t afford a fight on my first night of work, so I tried to diffuse the situation, by mimicking that I had a headache, maybe later and smiled. He started laughing, came over and sat down at my table, and we became instant friends, instant brothers for the entire time I lived there. I don’t want to think about the friendship I could have lost had I just ignored him.
In the first reading today, we hear the prophet Samuel being sent to anoint the new king of Israel. And that Samuel keeps thinking “Oh, it must be this one, he’s big and strong, or this one, or this one.” But God outright tells him not to judge by appearances or by a person’s stature. And that God judges by what is on the inside, and looks at what is inside a person when he calls them to a task. As it turns out, it is the youngest that God has chosen – one that would be considered of no account by human standards, he was a shepherd. He would have been the last son to be married off, the last in line of inheritance. Samuel was reminded “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
In the Gospel, we have a man born blind that is healed. But not just a man, a beggar, down there in status as the shepherds. After he is healed, he is called before the Pharisees, and this lowly man, one that would never be thought to allowed to speak with authority because he was just a beggar, takes the Pharisees to school. Again, God has used the least in the eyes of humans to do great things. Granted we know they didn’t listen to him, but he was true to the message in his heart.
We are called to serve God’s people, not to judge their worth or their merit, or their worthiness. Because, if that is the measure we are going to use, we would find ourselves without worth or worthiness, and without merit. Our call is to serve God, love God, and do that by loving all his creation. We have been called to plant the seeds, water them, tend them as they grow, feed them. But we are not called to weed them. God will take care of that in his time. We are called to be that light in the darkness as Paul says in his letter to Ephesians. Living as children of light. But if we are judging each other instead of loving each other, then in truth we are not light, we are darkness.
I made a very good friend that day back in 1989.
This week and as we get closer to Holy Week, is there someone in your life that perhaps you might have judged unfairly? Is there someone right now, that perhaps you can be light for in the darkness?