Our first reading today, the story of Samuel, has always been one of my favorites. For those of you who don’t remember the context, Samuel is born after his mother makes a promise that if she has a son she will dedicate him to the Lord at the temple. Her plea is heard and she conceives Samuel. The time period is a couple of generations after the people of Israel have returned from slavery in Egypt, but have not yet conquered all the land that God had promised would be theirs. The lack of conquest has been due to Israel’s infidelity, but the Lord has big things planned.
The scene we find in today’s reading is that of a young Samuel who has lived in the temple for about nine years as the assistant to the priest. He is asleep at the foot of the Ark of the Covenant, the big gold box holding the Ten Commandments and the manna from the desert of wandering, when he hears a voice. He jumps up and runs to his master only to be told that he wasn’t called. It happens again and he receives the same response of not being called but he is told if he hears the voice again he should answer “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” When he hears the voice the third time he replies as he was instructed and receives his call from God to be a great leader for the Israelites.
I love the story for a variety of reasons. First of all, the place of Samuels calling is significant because the Ark of the Covenant in that time period is comparable to our understanding of the Tabernacle in our church today, both house the very presence of God. For the Israelites the presence of God came through the things they were given by God; for us the presence of God is not a presence of what, but of who, as we believe we have the actual flesh and blood of Jesus in our midst. Secondly, I like the significance of the call, to be a GREAT LEADER for the people of Israel; this isn’t some little task, he is destined for great things. But most of all I love the story because of how the call isn’t recognized at first; in fact, the Lord has to call three times and the assistance of Eli, the priest, is needed before Samuel realizes what is going on.
We too, like Samuel, have a profound mission given to us by the Lord. Many times we forget how important we are in the eyes of the Lord, as if we are unnecessary and don’t have much of a role to play. We couldn’t be more wrong about this, He has great things planned for us. Once we acknowledge this as true all that remains is for us to listen, respond and receive the great plans God has for us. In this we should take our cue from Samuel; we should put ourselves in the very presence of God, and oh what a beautiful gift we have in the Eucharist! Secondly we should not be swayed if we can’t understand at first, like Samuel, we may need to hear it three times and need the assistance of others in order to recognize it. Finally we should say, “speak Lord your servant is listening,” upon hearing the Lord. It is sad how many people are afraid of hearing the Lord for fear that He might tell them to do something they don’t want to. He loves us more than we love ourselves, so trust in Him and become someone great. Prayers Always, Fr. Joseph Altenhofen