Today’s 1st Reading for Mass is taken from the First Book of Samuel (3:1-10; 19-20). This is a well known account of the LORD calling the young Samuel. Awakened from sleep by this call, Samuel goes to his friend and mentor, Eli, saying: “Here I am. You called me.” Three times, this happens, and finally, Eli realizes that it is the Lord who is calling Samuel. So, he advises Samuel the next time this happens to say: “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
What does this account teach us about the manner in which God speaks in so many of our lives? First of all, we recall how Samuel’s own birth was a blessed response of God to his mother’s prayer for a son. She was barren, and for various reasons, wanted very much to have God’s blessing that she might know the joy of motherhood. (See 1 Samuel 1: 1-20) Second, we know that Hannah, in gratitude to God, gave her son to the Lord, by placing him in the care of Eli at the temple of Shiloh. Her beautiful prayer at that time (1 Samuel 2:1-10) served as the basis for the beautiful Magnificat of Mary during her visit to Elizabeth at the time each of them were expecting the birth of their sons.
The role of Hannah, Mary, and Elizabeth are beautiful reminders of the role of women, and particularly mothers, in the work of salvation. These women gave thanks to God for the “gift of life” and the “gift” of their children. They prayed to God for their children, and in each of their cases, they commended their sons to God’s work and will. How beautiful it is for mothers, for parents, to pray for their children. How beautiful it is for mothers, for parents, to encourage their children to seek to follow Christ and His will. The Church is so very grateful for the many holy men and women who celebrate the sacrament of marriage, and form their children in the faith, and support them as they pursue their particular, unique vocations.
Back to Eli. In these repeated visits of Samuel to Eli when God is calling him, we learn the role of the Church in helping each individual understand and clarify the voice of God at work in their life. Eli as a priest can symbolize the Church, the People of God. All of us, bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay persons are to help our young people listen to God’s Word. Eli astutely discerns for Samuel that it is God who is calling him. He then wisely encourages Samuel with a proper response to such a personal revelation: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
Finally, the Psalm for today’s Mass summarizes well the same verse for all of us, those living their vocations, and those still discerning: “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” (Psalm 40) “Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll. To do you will is my delight; my God, you law is in my heart!” (vs 8-9) Indeed, how beautiful to know and serve the Lord!
May we continue to pray that each of us may strive to fulfill God’s will each day to the best of our ability, freely, faithfully, fully. Let us continue to pray for holy couples in marriage and for holy families, the seedbed of all vocations. Let us pray for those whom God still calls today, that their response may be as Samuel’s: “Here I am Lord. I come to do your will.”
Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you.
But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength right to the end. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen