In the readings this Sunday, we hear how Eli helped Samuel understand that God was calling him. We hear how St. John the Baptist points the way to the Lamb of God. And once Andrew follows and discovers Christ, he goes to bring his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. We must all do the same.
Here is an excerpt from my recent pastoral letter: Generous Distributors of God’s Grace which expands upon this account of Samuel.
The Role of Parents, Families, Parishes: Recognizing “The Call”
Most of us are probably familiar with the bible story of young Samuel. Samuel’s mother prayed in the temple for a child, more specifically, for a son. In her prayer, she promised that if God would bless her with a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord “all the days of his life.” (1 Samuel 1: 11) God heard and answered her prayer, and young Samuel was born. True to her word, Hannah took her son after he was weaned and presented him to Eli in the temple of the Lord. The prayer she offered at that time (1 Samuel 2:1-10) is echoed years later in the Magnificat of the Blessed Mother during her pregnancy and visit to her cousin, Elizabeth.
These women of faith, Hannah, Mary and Elizabeth, demonstrate the profound understanding that all life is a gift from God and that each child conceived comes from the hand of God. These women of faith still speak to us today, instructing us that every child has a path to follow according to God’s will. We pray for continued openness to life in all of our married couples, and for a faith-filled understanding and openness to God’s will for every child. The Church continually needs faith-filled husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, who are generous in bringing new members into God’s family, who prayerfully discern with their children God’s providential will for each of their lives.
As the story of young Samuel continues, we hear the famous call of God as it was heard and eventually understood in his life. One day while Samuel was asleep in the temple, the Lord spoke to the young boy. He answered “Here I am.” He ran to Eli, thinking it was he who called him. Eli told him, “I did not call you. Go back to sleep.” After this happened three times, Eli finally realized that it was the Lord calling the young boy, so he told him: “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply: ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” (1 Samuel 3:9)
Eli’s role in helping young Samuel hear and understand God’s call is the role we are to play in helping our young people hear and answer God’s call in their lives. God speaks in the depths of every human heart. God’s love is “stronger than death, its arrows are arrows of fire, flames of the divine. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor rivers sweep it away.” (See Song of Songs 8:6-7) It is not only our responsibility to aid our young people in understanding God’s mysterious calling in their life, but it is also a distinct privilege to be a servant of God in the process.
As the story of Samuel demonstrates, it is not easy to recognize God’s love and we need the help of others to understand how God is at work in our own lives. This is the role of parents and family. This assistance we give others in hearing and answering God’s call is the work of priests and parishioners; it is the work of every parish. This work is called discernment and it is the work of the Church.
May each of us open our lives to God and our hearts to his will!