2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
1Samuel 3:3-10, 19 – 1Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20 – John 1:35-42.
The supernatural element is prominent in the story of God calling Samuel by name. There’s a wonderful picture of the little boy lying asleep behind the sanctuary, the darkness pierced only by ‘the lamp of God’ (v.3). He’s woken up three times by a mysterious voice calling him by name. In no way does Samuel suspect that the Lord might be calling him – after all he is just a little boy, just a servant of the elderly priest Eli. It is Eli who clarifies that the voice Samuel hears is the voice of God, and it is Eli who tells him how to respond: ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’
The story of Samuel is our story too. God is constantly calling us into a relationship with Him in the circumstances of life in which we find ourselves. God is constantly speaking to us and directing us along the right path concerning what we should do. When we were baptised, our ears were opened by the action of the Holy Spirit to hear His call. God’s voice is, however, in danger of not being heard, of being drowned out by the noise and rant of the modern world. That’s why it’s so important to identify a quiet and peaceful corner where we can be alone with God to hear His voice, just like little Samuel when he was lying behind the sanctuary.
‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’ God can only communicate with a person who is listening. Listening is different from just hearing. Listening involves paying attention. Purposeful listening enables a person to identify the source of the sound or voice and to focus their attention on it. Thereafter they can make sense of it and be guided by it. Imagine Samuel hearing his name called time and again. At that time, the only person in his life speaking to him and calling him was Eli the priest, which is why Samuel kept going to Eli in response to the call. When the third call came, Eli finally understood that it was God calling Samuel, and he helped him to respond to God’s voice in the right way. God is continually calling us in differing ways. Unless we know how to listen out for His voice, like Samuel we will be confused, and we won’t be able to discern what His call holds for us.
‘Speak, Lord your servant is listening.’ Like Samuel, the two disciples of John the Baptist actively listened to what John was saying about Jesus. John pointed Jesus out to them and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Remember that this is John, the forerunner of Jesus, who asserted (Jn 1:20 cf. vv.34, 35) that he was not the Messiah they were looking for, and that the Messiah was much greater than he was. John grasped the opportunity to point them to the long-awaited Messiah as He passed (Jn 1:35). In effect, John was telling them, ‘Look, this is the man you have been waiting for. Go on, go and meet Him.’ The disciples listened to John’s advice, acted on it and went to Jesus. Then they listened to Jesus, who invited them to ‘Come and see’ (v.39) – and they did.
Eli and John the Baptist are good examples for anyone who bears the gospel message to follow because the gospel is not about them or us, but about God. The gospel message is there to guide people to God, not to human beings created in the image of God. The responses of Samuel and John’s disciples to the guidance offered are models that we should follow, always listening to those whom God puts across our path, to those who help to explain and interpret the Word of God in the Scriptures, and to equip us to face the challenges that confront us.
‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’ We tend to talk too much and listen too little. We open our mouths instead of our ears, and that makes it difficult for us to apprehend God’s word for our life. The Baptist’s disciples were paying attention to what John said, and that was why they acted upon his instruction. When they went to Jesus, they were following in His footsteps both literally and metaphorically. Their interest in finding out where Jesus lived was so that they would know where to come and find Him. We know that God wants us to listen to Him because He tells us where we can always find Him and where we can always discover His will for us. The repetition of ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’ in the 1st reading is there to remind us that we can discover His will through His word, and that we encounter Him profoundly whenever we enter His presence.
Jesus Christ is perpetually ‘passing’ by us. He is near us and He encounters us so that we will help others to encounter Him. Remember how instrumental Andrew was in facilitating Peter’s encounter with Jesus. If, today, you hear God calling you, ‘harden not your hearts’ (Ps 95:8). Know that He is calling you to reach out to those who are far from him and therefore find it difficult to hear His word.
And finally in the 2nd reading, St. Paul reminds us that we are not our own property, that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, that we have been paid for – ransomed – by the blood of Christ. That is why we have to use the human body for the glory of God. That is why we have to pay attention to God, serving as channels for His words to get to other people. Are you ready and committed always to be at God’s service? ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’ Amen. God bless you.