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‘SPEAK LORD, YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING’: A reflection for II Sunday of the Ord. Time, Year B
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sat, 13 Jan 2018

Samuel served at the sanctuary at Shiloh – a small plain near the Jordan where the Israelites had built a shrine for the Ark (1Sam 1-2). To Samuel was given the task of establishing Israel’s monarchy as it was still Israel’s formative years with no centralised Capital territory and no Jerusalem Temple.

The people living by kindreds and clans, continued to meet themselves in their central shrines, like the Shiloh sanctuary. Today’s first reading recounts the fascinating incident of Samuel’s humble and prophetic call.

This particular ‘Samuel’ isn’t the transliteration (shem el’) i.e. ‘name of God’. It rather derives from the Hebrew root: (‘Sha-al’) i.e. ‘received of’. Samuel’s mother was barren for a long time in a culture where childlessness attracted scorn against the woman. Samuel’s conception being a result of the prayerful tears of his distressed mother (1 Sam 1:9), one can only imagine the sense of triumph of Hannah who insisted: “I asked Yahweh for him” (1 Sam 1:20). She named her son: “Gift of God”.

At about 12, Sam enters his priestly apprenticeship under Eli, the elderly priest at Shiloh. His call is our reminder that in matters of faith, physical age has not always been the basis for spiritual maturity. It should not be considered as a hindrance to the profession of the faith.

Samuel’s call was also very significant: “It was rare of Yahweh to speak in those days, and visions were rare”. Yet, Sam was called four times. Initially, for three times he was called, and for three times, the boy got up ‘and ran’ to Eli: “You called me: I am here”. It was Eli who realised that God was calling the boy and he told Samuel, ‘go back and lie down; if he calls you again, answer: “Speak Lord, your servant listens.” (1Sam 3:9).

Then Yahweh came and stood by, calling the boy as he did before. Samuel replies with the words provided by Eli (1Sam 3:10). Again, in Samuel, God confirms the human effort of formation.

In Samuel, we see the youth who listens; and who runs to it, when it comes to answering God’s call. Sam’s readiness links us with the willingness found in those called to discipleship in the Gospel. Again, the humility and openness of John in letting go, is beautifully nuanced in the ‘promptness’ of John’s curious disciples.

“Lord, where do you live?” This is more than a question. It is a longing curiosity borne out of a deep, spiritual consciousness. They readily followed Christ; and they became completely transformed from visitors to apostles.

God has not stopped calling us – through the ministry of the Church, through the guidance of faithful parents, through the steadfast counsel of wise teachers; there is always ‘an Andrew’ or a ‘John the Baptist’ in our lives to guide us. Whether in the ancient or the contemporary times, God’s call comes to us if we are ready and attentive to him.

And being ready and attentive also means accepting discipline, especially the type of moral discipline highlighted in today’s second reading. Paul’s straight talk: “The body is not meant for fornication” (1 Cor 6:13) is, in the context of today’s excessive permissiveness and moral crisis, quite instructive for us.

Any freedom by which a person lives an immoral life, is a counterfeit freedom. It is a false freedom that seeks to entrench the godless culture. This type of bizarre culture is more inclined to commanding God: “listen God, your boss is speaking.

 

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