“Not as man sees does God see,
because he sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
This instruction to Samuel is both a good thing and a bad thing for us, I think. It’s good because it’s nice to know that there is One who does not judge us on what we look like or how we dress or what we do for a living, but rather on what is in our heart. It’s bad, because there is One who looks into our hearts and sees everything.
How easy it can be for us to judge people. We want to quickly put people into categories and then almost write them off. But today’s first reading reminds us that we need to be careful about making judgments because we have not been given the gift of the big picture. Only God can see into people’s hearts, only God knows who people really are and can judge with authenticity.
Today is the anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in our country. Since then, our society has tumbled down the slippery slope of devaluing life and we are seeing the rotten fruits of it all over. War, violence, hatred, lack of concern for the poor and needy, lack of respect for the elderly and terminally ill, all of these things are symptoms of the culture of death that surrounds us. Far from liberating women and giving them choice over the use of their bodies, the legalization of abortion has driven many women to have an abortion simply because they thought that was their only option or because it was more convenient for family or the father.
But the Lord looks into our hearts and knows what’s really there. We cannot claim to be Pro Life if we are in fact only anti-abortion. Our claim to righteousness has to be based on more than never having had the disastrous occasion of having to choose to participate in an abortion, or it’s not really righteousness at all. If we pray to end abortion and then do not attend to our obligation to the poor, or if we choose to support the death penalty, or if we engage in racial bigotry, then we are not in fact Pro Life. Every life, every life, every life is sacred, no matter what we may think of it. Because God sees into the heart. And more important that that, God created that heart.
And I say all this not because I don’t think that abortion is a disaster: it certainly is. I say this because it’s way too easy for us to oppose abortion and then call ourselves Pro Life and then go out and violate life in some other circumstance. We must be very careful of doing that, because God sees into our hearts too.
This year we will have the opportunity and the obligation to vote for a president and other leaders who will govern our country in the years ahead. We will all have to be careful about selecting a candidate who is Pro Life, which for the Church means not just anti-abortion, but also a person who supports life at every stage from conception to natural death. I would go so far as to guarantee you that there is not one candidate out there who fits the bill entirely. All we can do is select the best person, and pray for a continuing change of heart, a continuing conversion in their lives.
And maybe that conversion needs to start in our own life. Because other people will see in us whatever they’re going to notice. But God – God sees into our hearts.