Fridolin Assists with the Holy Mass by Peter Fendi, 1833. Public domain/Getty Centre

God's Word on Sunday: God sends us an invitation to listen

  • January 13, 2018

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 14 (Year B) 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42

Many people have been jolted awake by what they believed to be someone calling their name. Others swear that they heard the phone ringing, even when that was not the case. Sometimes these experiences are harmless and innocuous enough, but often it is a sort of wake-up call.

For young Samuel, the voice calling in the night was a life-altering experience. Three times he heard his name, three times he asked Eli what he wanted. Eli behaved in a typical fashion — “don’t be ridiculous, I didn’t call you; be quiet and go back to sleep!”

By the third time it began to dawn on Eli that this might be the voice of God. He told Samuel that if it happened again, he was to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening!” And that is exactly what he did.

God commissioned him as a prophet, although he still had much to learn. The passage ends with an interesting twist: The Lord was with Samuel and let none of his words fall to the ground. His words packed the same sort of wisdom and power common in the prophets, and in a far greater way, Jesus.

The prophecy’s emphasis on listening is important, for it is something that most people do not do very well. We don’t really listen to others — our minds are either elsewhere or we are thinking of our witty or brilliant rebuttal. The same can apply in our relationship with God. We might yammer on and on to (or at!) God, but do we really sit still and listen?

Often people complain that God never communicates with them, but the real problem is a failure of listening skills. Listening is usually more effective than speaking. When we do speak, perhaps we can take care that none of our words “fall to the ground” — that is, we should not speak frivolously or carelessly.

Paul uses the image of body and temple twice in 1 Corinthians. In his first use of the body symbol, he stressed the unity of the community and the sinfulness of dividing that unity. In this passage, he focused on the individual body, stressing purity. The fundamental principle was that God dwelt both in the community and in the individual believer.

Unity and purity had to be safeguarded and sins against either of them were sins against the temple of God.

Unfortunately, not enough attention is paid to the presence of God in the Church community and too many communities are torn by strife and factions. That is usually called human nature, but we have the ability to push beyond what we believe to be our nature. Perhaps it would be helpful to meditate a bit more on the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit in us.

In John’s Gospel, ordinary words are freighted with layers of hidden meaning. When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and addressed Him as the Lamb of God, two of His disciples were off and running.

Jesus turned and put a very simple question to them: What are you looking for? The question is also addressed to us. We need to stop and ask ourselves the cause of our restlessness and seeking. What is our heart’s desire?

The two disciples also had a seemingly mundane question: Where are you staying (abiding)? The Greek word used in the original text is the same word used in Chapter 15 to describe the necessity for disciples of Jesus to dwell or abide in Him. Their question had even more depth than they imagined.

Jesus issued the invitation: Come and see! As the Gospel unfolds, we come to realize that Jesus abides in the Father and the Father in Him. When Jesus urges His disciples to abide or dwell in Him, He assures them that if they do, both He and the Father will dwell in them.

In effect, it is an invitation to participate in the life of the Trinity. It all began with an innocuous interchange between two disciples and Jesus one afternoon long ago.

When Jesus invites us to seek, come and see, it is an invitation to experience God for ourselves. Then we will have no more questions. We will know.

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