Scripture Readings: First Samuel 3:3-10.19; First Corinthians 6:13-20; John 1:35-42
One of my favorite Old Testament stories is the calling of Samuel, an event which took place some one thousand years before the coming of Christ. Samuel’s call is the story of the Lord’s revelation to the youthful Samuel, when no prophet had arisen in Israel during the two centuries or so between Moses and Samuel.
The author of First Samuel expresses the situation just before the calling of Samuel this way: “The word of the Lord was rare in those days and visions were uncommon” (First Samuel 3:1). So much so was this the case, and having no experience as yet of any direct revelation from the Lord, that Samuel mistook God’s call for that of Eli the priest and judge at the important Shiloh sanctuary which was some twenty miles north of Jerusalem.
It took several tries from God’s for Eli and Samuel to understand that it was God who was calling the young Samuel.
The event of the calling of Samuel was important in the minds of our ancestors in the faith, for Samuel’s vocation was the beginning of a new prophetic movement among God’s people.
“Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him,” we are told, indicating that the prophetic mission Samuel was taking on was under God’s watchful care. The young prophet is dedicated to the Lord, ready to listen, and God cares for this chosen one.
In time the fame of Samuel as a prophet spread throughout Israel and was legendary. Samuel would eventually anoint the first kings of Israel, Saul and then David, thereby transforming the entire history of the people of God.
By Samuel anointing kings, the twelve tribes of Israel were more firmly united and centralized. The ideal was the unification of the people into a single family, that all their actions would be a form worship and praise of the one God. This work was undertaken in obedience to God.
Saint Paul in the second lesson for Mass today stresses that followers of Christ are also to form a bond of union and strive for holiness together, thereby becoming a temple of the Lord, made up of many individuals who are also temples of God’s Holy Spirit. Sinfulness is understood, then. a desecration of the temple and an offense to God and other parts of the temple, that is, other people in the family of faith. When sin is avoided and doing good abounds, followers of Christ are acting in accord with God’s will and building up the temple of the Holy Spirit, offering right worship to God.
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus asked his first disciples, and asks each of us as well: “What are you looking for?” And then Jesus adds, “Come and see.” If we do so, like the first disciples of Jesus we enter into conversation with the Lord, which in fact is a life-long process, culminating in the passing over from this life to life immortal.
Our fervent cry each day should be, “We have found the Messiah,” just as Andrew told his brother Peter. With such a conviction our lives will be on fire for the things of God and the good of all people and God’s creation.
We are all God’s instruments, temples of the Holy Spirit, calling to one another, as God called out in the sanctuary at Shiloh, “Samuel, Samuel.” The confident and joyful reply of Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” should be ours as well.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB