Sunday, January 18, 2009

Speak, Lord, Your Servant Is Listening.

The opening chapters of the First Book of Kings tell the story of Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, who prayed to the LORD, because she and her husband had no children, and she was nearing the age when that would no longer be possible. The LORD answered her prayer, and she gave birth of a son, who was named Samuel, which means, “The Lord has heard me”. In gratitude, Hannah and Elkanah brought the child to the priest Eli, the guardian of the Ark of the Covenant at the sanctuary of Shiloh. In today’s First Reading, Samuel is awakened by a voice he assumes to be that of Eli. Twice, Eli tells him, “Go back to sleep; I didn’t call you”, but the third time, Eli tells the boy: “If you are called again, answer ‘Speak, Lord; your servant is listening.”

Today’s Gospel is taken from the Gospel of John. Two of John the Baptist’s disciples are standing with him when Jesus walks by, and John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples hear what John says, and immediately, they leave him and follow Jesus. Jesus turns around and asks them, “What are you looking for?” “Teacher, where are you staying?” they answer. He then says, “Come, and you will see.” The two disciples of John spent the rest of the day with Jesus. About sundown, Andrew went home and told his brother Simon, “We have found the Messiah”. This gospel does not tell us the name of the second disciple, but we know from the other gospels that it was John, the brother of James, and the author of this gospel. Soon, all four of these fishermen from Galilee will leave their boats and follow Jesus, not for a day, but for a lifetime; in fact, for eternity.

“When did Jesus call you?” It is a question I asked the congregation at Blessed Sacrament church downtown at the 4 pm Mass Saturday afternoon. As I looked down from the lectern, there was a little boy, no more than two years old, in the front row with his mother, his grandmother and grandfather. I pointed to him: “The first answer to that question, for little Xavier and for all of us is: when we were baptized.” But, throughout our lives, we are called by Jesus again and again. Many of us are called to be disciples of Jesus in the Sacrament of Matrimony, to witness to God’s presence in our lives and to share God’s life with our own children. Some women are called to be disciples of Jesus as religious sisters, in teaching communities, or nursing communities, or in cloistered orders devoted entirely to prayer and contemplation. Some men are called to be disciples of Jesus as parish priests, some as priests or brothers in religious orders. Some men and women are called to be disciples of Jesus as unmarried people in the world, either because they have never been married, or because their marriage has ended either in the death of the other spouse, or otherwise.

All of the Apostles of Jesus except John were called to bear witness to Jesus by martyrdom. It is unlikely that any of us will be called to follow Jesus not only as hearers of his word, but as sharers of his suffering and death. Unlikely, but not impossible. In any event, the Greek word “martyr” does not mean “one who is put to death”, or “one who suffers”. It means “one who bears witness”. Pray for me, as I pray for you, that my life – and yours -- will bear witness to our willingness to follow Jesus wherever he leads.

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