We are preparing for the long walk, through the Sundays of Ordinary Time to become more acquainted with the person of Jesus and His style of living. We can not love what we do not know and so God begins a courtship with us. We will not always feel comfortable or easy with His ways and we might even want to sleep through His invitations. We will meet our resistance and hopefully something inside us that wants to be responsive.
What we hear in today’s First Reading is a sleep-interrupting calling. Samuel is a servant-boy for Eli. The lad hears a voice and believes it is from Eli. After several more voice-visits, Eli instructs Samuel on just how to respond. When Samuel finally realizes what he is hearing, he makes his profession of faith, “Here I am.”
What we do not hear between his direct statement to God about being a good listener, and the final verse, is the message which Samuel will deliver to his master Eli. Eli’s sons have been cursing God so Samuel is instructed to relate to Eli that God is going to destroy Eli’s house and family. Eli hears this and surrenders saying, “The Lord is God.” After this we hear the last line of the first reading, that Samuel is a true prophet and all his words will be true and effective.
The Gospel is John’s account of Jesus’ beginning His public life of calling to follow His way, His truth and His life. As we have seen during the Advent Gospels, John’s Gospel begins with John the Baptist making clear that he, the Baptist, is not the Messiah. In the opening verses, John points out to his disciples that the One Who is passing by, He is the “Lamb of God.” Two of John’s disciples follow Jesus Who turns and asks them about what are they searching. They don’t know exactly so they ask Jesus where He is staying. Jesus does not tell them, but shows them by inviting them to come and see.
Two words are highlighted in this Gospel. “teacher” is the One Who says, “Come and see.” When Andrew, one of the two who first followed Jesus, finds his brother, Simon, he tells him that they have found the “Christ”. Andrew brings Simon to Jesus Who changes Simon’s name to “Cephas”. This word means “Rock”. There are many themes or hints flying around in this opening scene. This is happening at four in the afternoon, in bright daylight. The main characters of this Gospel’s drama are being named. Jesus is Teacher and the Christ, while John is the one pointing Him out. We are there too; we are being invited to come and see and stay a while.
Samuel, Andrew, Simon are all called, but not quite “out of the blue,” as we say. The call seems to be an invitation to someone who has an already-present something in their souls. There are negative calls as well. We here at this Jesuit University watch our students respond in all kinds of settings. We have students who actually get in trouble for drinking, let’s say. When confronted for disciplinary reasons, it seems that their friends “invited” them to this or that. The invitation was definitely there, but also there was an abiding tendency or leaning to that kind of response. We say that good kids find good friends. The call is a sympathetic vibrational relationship.
We invite students to enter into service activities off campus and many just seem to know that their response seems natural, a harmony. Our trouble-finders are not bad kids, but the inner-buzzing waits for a similar buzzing to move them down Trouble Lane. It seems, just as we have a left and right brain, or a physical symmetry, we each have two interior ears. One of them longs for self-donation and relational creativity. The second ear longs to hear voices which urge self-indulgence, self-finding and self-destruction.
Jesus has come to us as “teacher” and we will learn if we have the proper ear to hear. There are many things which Jesus teaches that are difficult and we wish He hadn’t said them. Learning takes a humility and a sense that we don’t have it all figured out. There are many kinds of teachers offering a way, a truth and a life which resonate within our self-centered ear. Jesus just keeps offering His way and truth and life.
Jesus has come as the Christ, the Anointed, the Messiah and He makes sense if our interior ear has listened to our need for a savior. That ear must hear deeply our incompleteness and our longing to be invited out of our self-centeredness and the “troubles” into which that self-spirit has led us. Here too there has to be a humility to admit the confusion, the lies and the spiritual deaths to which those voices have moved us. Samuel heard something inside him. He knew he heard it, but was it all from outside him. I’d like to think that his sleeping in the temple allowed his interior-ear to come to hear the call of God. Andrew and Simon were ready by some previous disposition. Maybe in these early weeks of Ordinary Time we are being invited to get our ears checked. We are invited to learn what Jesus’ teaching and ways sound like. We also are in the life-long process of learning what our self-centered hum sounds like. To whom we listen will determine what we hear.
“We know and believe in God’s love for us.” 1 Jn.4:16
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