January 15. 2nd Sunday of the Year
1 Sam 3:3-10. The vocation of the boy Samuel to be a prophet is one of the great Old Testament stories. His response, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’ is an inspiration for all to follow.
1 Cor 6:13-20. Since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we will not abuse them in sinful ways, but do all for the glory of God.
Jn 1:35-42. In John’s account of the call of the first disciples, we have the Lord’s quiet invitation to to them, “Come and see.” Like Andrew and Peter, that is how we too can encounter Jesus.
Called By Name
“I have called you by your name; you are mine.” remembering people’s names – what a problem this can be; even with the best of intentions, even when we are really interested in someone and can recall some personal details, the name eludes us. So many methods of mnemonic are advised and tried, just to avoid the disappointing admission, “Sorry, but I just can’t remember your name.” Every man and woman (and child!) likes to be recognized by name; when others forget, it is a blow to our person-hood.
God knows each individual by name totally, intimately, always. None of us is ever ignored by him; like the birds of the air, and all created things, we are forever in God’s mind, under his care (cf. Mat. 10:29.) Even the person of no particular significance in his neighbour’s eyes, the born loser who lives in the shadows of depression most of the time – even he (or she) is precious in the eyes of God, perhaps more precious than anyone can suspect.
Samuel stands for all the little, forgotten people. Just a boy, with no high illusions about himself, a servant and apprentice to the old man Eli; he slept at night in a little room like an altar-boys” sacristy, at the religious shrine of Israel. Unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, the boy heard God calling him by name; eventually Samuel recognizes that the call is from God, and not just from the priest, so he submits himself heart and soul to listen to God’s word. Only then did Samuel discover his own potential, his new identity, the role he was to fulfil in life.
Some of us may feel a strong, but quite false, sense of our own identity. Our self-understanding derives too exclusively from our own achievements, failures, efforts and ambitions; God’s plan for us hardly enters the picture at all or we dismiss it as too uncertain, too “spiritual” and remote from daily life. Biblical faith, on the contrary, insists that God calls us into relationship with himself on a day to day basis, always offering us life, and always making demands on us to live our life worthily in his sight. Called by name. For Christians, specifically, it is relationship with Christ our Lord that lies at the heart of our identity. Not only are we called by name to friendship with Jesus – we become “members of his body,” sharers in his spirit. Sometimes, in prayer we can taste the rich privilege of belonging to Christ. More often, it is in the darkness of faith that we simply believe in it. But always, and in ordinary details of behaviour, we are called to live up to the standard of love and truth set y the Spirit of Jesus. That is our real Christian vocation; and only by trying to live that vocation are we worthy of our name.
Later, we all hope, we will discover our full identity in God’s presence, when this life is over and he calls us by name into the next life. Like the two apostles who wanted to know Christ better, we will be invited to “Come and see.”
There is great concern in church circles about the crisis of vocations. The average age of the priesthood is rising steadily while the number of those entering the seminary continues to decline. Some speculate that if present trends continue, large areas of the church will be deprived of the services of a priest in the early years of the next millennium. Seminars are held to discuss the crisis. Surveys are commissioned. Reports are drawn up. The situation is found to be even worse than previously predicted. Priests are asked to preach about it. A day is designated as a special day of prayer for vocations. Recruitment is stepped up in the schools. Parents” committees are canvassed for support. The whole crusade is uncomfortably similar to a Save the Polar Bear campaign. The religious is classified as yet another of the planet’s endangered species.
The problem about vocations is that the- word itself has been high-jacked by the clergy. God calls everyone in some way or other. Even to the active service ministry, there is no evidence to support the view that there are now less vocations. Look at all those young men and women who volunteer to work in the Third World. Humanitarian societies have sprung up everywhere to help the less fortunate and they don’t seem to suffer from “a shortage of vocations.” If some religious congregation, that came into existence in the nineteenth century, is now in crisis, maybe it is because it did not evolve with the times. Some, inevitably, have outlived their usefulness. Vocations were never intended as a means of perpetuating the breed. Religious orders, as elsewhere among God’s creatures, must adapt to survive.
There is no shortage of vocations. God does not nod when his creatures are in need. Somebody, like an Eli or a John the Baptist, is needed to mediate God’s call. So, the boy Samuel was able to respond: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Eli had given him an open ear. John the Baptist led Andrew to Christ, and it was through Andrew that his brother, Peter, became a disciple. If, today, God’s calls seem to fall on deaf ears, it maybe that those of us who profess to be his disciples do not convincingly relay his message.
A Peculiar Taste in Friends
Jesus had peculiar taste in friends. You put the whole crowd together and they were not as smart as one of the third rate philosophers in Rome. Maybe some of them could read and write. They were perhaps street smart, but you were going to announce the nearness of the kingdom of God would you surround yourself with folks that wouldn’t make assistant precinct captain? They were utterly insensitive to Jesus’s spiritual message and interested only in the power and prestige they were going to have in his kingdom (which they didn’t understand at all). One of them was a thief and ten of them cowards. Surely, even if he had decided to limit is choice to Galilee Jesus could have done better? Why these sluggards and nerds? Why indeed? And why do we pretend that our leaders today are better than they were? Patently the first Pope and the first bishops (if we want to use that analogy) were not sacred persons, but inept, often stupid human beings? Why do we have to pretend that their successors are any better? Why should hey be immune from criticism? Have we missed the point somewhere along the line that the leaders of the church and the followers in the church are fragile, imperfect human beings and that Jesus chose them precisely because he wanted a human church. If he wanted something better, he should have turned it over not to the philosophers in Rome but to the Seraphim.
One upon a time there was a group of young men who idolized the great, goal-scoring hero of their county hurling team. He was a great player, utterly courageous, and as willing to pass the ball as to make the score himself. He was modest at media interviews, generous with volunteer work, kind to youngsters, and signed autographs till all were satisfied. On top of that, he was a God-fearing man who prayed before every game. The locals all praised him as a great role model for youth, both in the city and around the country. Then one night he came into the put where some of these young men hung out, and drank till he was roaring drunk and abusive. He insulted the bartender, picked a fight with another guy, and sneered at the way the country was going. The teenagers were shocked into silence, especially when one of them asked this famous guy for his autograph, and he actually refused and went back to the bar, cursing. “What a jerk!” the crowd said. “We’ll never cheer for him again! He’s no role model for anyone. The team should drop him!” But one lad spoke up for him and said, “He’s only human.” “That’s no excuse” everyone else agreed.
1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19
Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
Ps 40:1, 3, 6-9
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
Then I said, “Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
1 Corinthians 6:13-15
“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”-and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him an said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).