One of the most famous examples of God's hankering after the heart is found in the Old Testament, in the story of King David. We all remember how King Saul, the first king of ancient Israel, became corrupt. When his corruption led him into outright disobedience to God's specific commands, the prophet Samuel was instructed to remove the blessing from Saul and anoint a new king. God led Samuel to the family of a prosperous shepherd named Jesse, from Bethlehem. From that family the new king would be chosen.
Jesse had seven strapping sons in the prime of young manhood. Samuel was impressed by the first one, and even more impressed with each subsequent one. But as he met them one by one, the Lord kept telling him that this was not the one he had chosen. At one point, God spoke to Samuel's heart saying: "Take no notice of his appearance or his height for I have rejected him; God does not see as man sees; man kooks at appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
When they had gone through all seven of Jesse's grown sons, Samuel had still not found the one God had chosen. So Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more sons, and Jesse said that there was one more, a mere boy, who was out tending the sheep. Samuel sent for him, and even though he was just a boy, weak and mall by any human standard, he turned out to be the one God had chosen to become the great king of the Chosen People and the ancestor of the Messiah: David. Christ looks beyond appearances; He thinks and loves at a deeper level.
If we reflect deeply on this truth of our faith, it gives us a new insight into one of Christ's most difficult commandments: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matthew 7:1). Because our fallen human nature tends to self-centeredness and arrogance, we tend to be harsh critics of our neighbors. But Jesus warns us to combat this tendency.
He knows that we are not good judges, not fair judges. We cannot see into people's hearts, the way He can. We cannot see all the factors that go into making a person be the way they are. We cannot see people's intentions, hopes, and struggles. Only God can see the whole interior world that goes into making people do what they do.
Consider how forgiving we are toward ourselves. When someone criticizes us, what's our reaction? Immediately, we make excuses for ourselves, we explain ourselves. We point out factors or aspects that the other person doesn't know or see. We protect ourselves from criticism, sometimes energetically.
Why is that? Because we can see much more of our own hearts and minds than other people can see. But when we notice a fault, flaw, or mistake in someone else, we don't make excuses for them; we jump on them. By admonishing us not to judge our neighbors, Jesus is reminding us that our neighbors have just as complex an interior world as we do: they have their struggles, their points of view, their hidden difficulties. He is inviting us to follow His example of not judging by appearances, but by faith. And perhaps the best example of all is the one we have come together to celebrate today: the Eucharist. On the outside, it looks like nothing but flimsy, insipid, and fragile bread, but on the inside there is so, so much more.
This week, let's live on that level, the deeper level.