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God's Word on Sunday: When the Lord speaks, are we listening?

  • January 10, 2021

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 17 (Year B) 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42

We hear many voices calling us each day — some of them important and true, but most consist of noise, disinformation and outright dishonesty. But a communication from God has some distinct characteristics that make us stop and listen.

A genuine call is not sought after and usually comes as a surprise, although it often follows a period of seeking and preparation. It is also persistent; if ignored once or twice, it returns ever stronger.

Young Samuel — a prophet in training — did not know the Lord yet. But then he heard his name called during the night — a time when our guard is down, all is quiet and we are most likely to hear the whisper of God’s Spirit.

Samuel thought that Eli was calling him and he went to see what his mentor wanted. This occurred twice, and both times Eli wearily assured Samuel he had not called and ordered him back to bed. But it dawned on Eli that it might be the voice of God, so he told Samuel that if it occurred again, he was to reply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

This openness, transparency and self-giving is the ideal response to God’s call and is reflected in Mary’s response to the angel in Luke 1:38. Samuel did as he was told and sure enough, he was called a third time. He replied as Eli had instructed him and was empowered by God as a prophet.

In the omitted verses in the lectionary, he was given an unpleasant prophecy to deliver to Eli and his household. Because of the corruption of Eli’s sons, his office was about to come to an end. But Samuel’s training was just beginning, for now the Lord’s hand had taken hold of him.

There is a beautiful and interesting image that spoke of his spiritual formation: “The Lord let none of his words fall to the ground.” In other words, Samuel’s words were weighty, spiritually valuable and imbued with power. They were not wasted on frivolity or idle chatter but reflected the divine will.

If only we treated our own words with as much care and forethought, considering their effect on others and the world around us.

We become what we love, so Paul urged his followers to be especially careful of the deeds done while in the body. Since we have been freed from our sins by the blood of Christ, our bodies are no longer our own but the Lord’s.

If we continue lives of disorder and sin, then we show a deep disrespect and contempt for not only our bodies but the price the Lord has paid for our freedom. We carry the presence of God in our hearts and bodies. Our attitudes and the way we treat others should reflect our awareness of this presence and the price that has been paid for our redemption.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus hunts down those He wants as His disciples and calls them to follow. In John, however, the prospective apostles are the ones that seek Him out.

What made these two disciples bolt from their own teacher and chase after Jesus? They must have felt a strong stirring of the heart and soul.

The Baptist’s recognition of Jesus as the Lamb of God was all they needed. But what were they seeking and yearning for? This was the first question Jesus directed at the two disciples and it is also directed to all of us.

We are often unaware of our deepest ideals, hopes and desires. We need to reflect, pray and focus on the light we find within us. Otherwise, we will wander aimlessly through life and chase after anything that grabs our immediate attention.

We can be led down many paths, not all of them helpful or life-giving. They asked where He lived or dwelt, and Jesus responded with an invitation to see and experience for themselves.

In John’s Gospel, it is clear that Jesus dwells with and in the Father — and He invites His followers to share this experience. Most importantly, faith in Jesus and being His disciple is not simply something to wear around one’s neck as an identity marker. When Jesus says “come and see,” He means “make it your own; make it part of you.” Only then will we begin to dwell with and in the Father.