A simple glance at the readings of today will enable us to identify a unifying theme which is ‘vocation’. Samuel was called by God serve and was aided to discern the authenticity of his vocation by Eli. Every Christian vocation is a personal invitation to come and see Christ.
First reading: 1Samuel 3:3–10, 19
We read that: “Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him” 1 Samuel 3:19. This thumbnail portrait of Samuel represents the process and ideal of all vocations. To grow up as Samuel in the presence of God is a process of deliberate and decisive maturation, accepting each day as an opportunity for commitment to greater responsibility. For growth to be steady, the Word must be reflected in daily life. Samuel embraced the Word of God absolutely making it his reason, for being and meaning. Because Samuel spoke the Word of God, his words were not idle but active with power to effect what was spoken cf. Isaiah 55:10-11. At times the Word would challenge the particular decision, habit and lifestyle aiming at providing the impetus for change and conversion. In other times the Word would comfort and consolation and when necessary it would reprimand. The Word is found in-law/Torah, the prophets/Nebiim and the writings/Kethubim. When Torah, Nebiim and Kethubim are put together they make one holy, capable and responsible. By living according to its challenge and calling others to do likewise Samuel’s relationship with the Word displayed integrity. His yes was yes; his no was no. In Samuel’s ministry, there could be no disingenuousness.
To the Israelite, a word was a concrete expression of the character and intentions of the person who uttered it. Like the people who speak them, words could be active cf. Hebrews 4:12 or idle cf. Matthew 12:36. Words placed special responsibility on those who uttered them. “By your words, you will be acquitted and by your words, you will be condemned” Matthew 12:37; this was Jesus’ charge to the Pharisees, whose words were not always consonant with their actions. Samuel’s response ‘Here I am’, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” 1Samuel 3:10 exhibits the dangers of the hardness of heart/sklerokardia a syndrome caused by a lack of attentiveness to clear uttered orders. This ailment is characterized by a gradual dullness of the heart resulting in stunted spiritual growth and alienation from God. The gift of the Word requests us to take care, to hear, keep and to live the Word like Samuel repeating here I am, Lord; speak your Word, I am listening.
Second reading: 1Corinthians 6:13–15, 17–20
St. Paul confronts the life Corinthians lived before conversion as chaotic and degenerated by perky cheating, deceptions, idolatry, fornication, adultery, sexual perversion, drunkenness, thievery and slander. Paul says: “that is what some of you used to be but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus” Corinthians 6:11. Corinthians did not change themselves; it is God through his Son who cleansed them. This amazing grace of conversion is a process that begins with God calling to live life in a new and different direction. Even if they had been baptized they had not thoroughly washed away their past habits and philosophies. Many still ascribed to the pagan notion of material universe that the body was of no consequence and could be abused with impunity. This belief stemmed from the dichotomous ancient anthropology which viewed the human person as an immortal spirit trapped in a mortal, corporal prison. According to an ancient Greek proverb, the body was a tomb. One philosopher Epictetus is credited with saying, ‘I am a poor soul, shackled to a corpse’.
For Paul, the human person was a living, integral flesh brought into being by the breath of God cf. Genesis 2:7. Since his conversion, he believed that Christ’s saving death and resurrection had effected the redemption of body and spirit alike; therefore, the redeemed are to live in accordance with the gifts they have received. Because of Christ’s saving action, the body is a temple of the Spirit and must be respected.
As the whole human person will know the joy of the resurrection, there is a need to prepare for immortality by preserving oneself from immorality. Paul’s teaching may seem intolerant to a society which is slouching toward Gomorrah. Instead of allowing the fear of sexually transmitted diseases to dictate sexual behaviour, we are called to a more constructive commitment to morality. The way revelation transforms culture is the way grace transforms nature. When we respect our bodies, we glorify God who creates them.
Gospel: John 1:35–42
Jesus invited two of John the Baptist disciples to come and see where he stayed cf. John 1:39. Although St. John tells us nothing of what transpired in the home where Jesus lodged, our interest is the importance of the aftermath of that encounter. The gospel tells us that one of them was Andrew who was with an unnamed companion that day most probably the apostle John, who later became one of the major sources for this Gospel. All we know is that, behind closed doors; and without public fanfare, the lives of two people were forever changed. From that day forward they took a new direction and became disciples of Jesus.
Based on this narrative we can discernible three stages in discipleship. The first stage is curiosity, interest and fascination with the person of Jesus. The second is an actual decision to join his company, to listen and to learn from Jesus. The third is friendship, intimacy with Jesus and with God who revealed him. Considering these discernment stages, we begin with the initial question Jesus asked: “What are you looking for?” John 1:38. This is a question that touches the basic human needs which causes a person to turn to God. Most of us can’t claim the dramatic call of Samuel, Paul, John and Andrew; but the elements included in these texts are common to most vocations. Samuel was called while he was already in the service of the Lord, Paul was called when he was already at the service of the Pharisees and as for John and Andrew, they were disciples of John the Baptist. God looks and calls those willing to serve. Samuel was asleep when he was called means; vocations can occur at any time, in any place, amid any sort of activity. Samuel was sleeping in the temple because he had been assigned to tend the sacred flame. A perpetual flame was a sign of the abiding presence of God. The humour in Samuel’s naive running to Eli three times before the old priest realizes that it is the Lord calling means that vocations require discernment, the help of others and sage advice. A balanced discernment makes the response admirable, eager, sincere and sustainable.
Like Samuel, we need to be ready for the call. God always needs selfless people ready to serve his kingdom freely and happily. Life is good when it is lived worthily; we are all invited to conversion so that we can yield to the maximum. In respect of human freedom, God expects us to ask him, where do you stay? The response will become and see cf. John 3:21. Every day we need to see Jesus and then we can have life within us. It is this experience of Jesus that makes one eager to draw others to him. As Andrew went in search of his brother Peter to come and see Jesus; so the same should be done by all of us. We have to attract as many people as possible to Jesus since we also have been graced to share the same by a person of goodwill.
Fr. Paulino Mondo