The Problem with Prejudice

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

The Problem with Prejudice

March 30, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Lent

First Reading: 1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/033014.cfm

Prejudice is one of those things that always strikes us as monstrously unfair precisely because it involves pre-judging, judging a person or situation before we actually know anything. Yet, no matter how we try, “pre-judgments” are terribly difficult to root out of our minds and hearts. A person’s clothing, shoes, hairstyle, teeth, jewelry, tattoos or lack thereof, car, or whatever often become a basis for us to make a snap judgment about the person, who he or she is and how we’ll choose to relate to him or her. In this Sunday’s Old Testament reading, God shows how he evaluates people and overrules the human tendency toward prejudice.


This reading begins with the Lord sending the prophet Samuel on a mission to anoint a new king. Just before this moment in the First Book of Samuel, God has withdrawn his favor from the existing king, Saul (1 Sam 15). In fact, when the new king is anointed, the Lord takes his spirit away from Saul and an evil spirit begins tormenting him (16:14). Saul is on his way out, but the Lord chooses a “soft launch” approach for the new king: He will begin in obscurity and only gradually gain influence over the tribes of Israel.


Samuel brings with him a “horn of oil” to anoint the new king. A horn could be used as a container for oil, much in the same way Davy Crockett used a powder horn (which you can still buy on eBay). Samuel would anoint the new king by opening his oil horn and pouring its contents on the head of the candidate. This is a symbolic act, which echoes the period of the Judges, when the spirit of the Lord would “rush upon” a person (Judg 3:10; 11:29; 14:6). Anointing carries with it a sense of divine appointment and empowerment with His Spirit. Kings like Saul were anointed (1 Sam 10:1), but so were priests (Exod 28:41). In the New Covenant era, anointing oil is used in the sacraments of Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Sacrament of the Sick.

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