Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Here Am I, LORD; I Come To Do Your Will.

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I              1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-20
During the time young Samuel was minister to the LORD under Eli,
a revelation of the LORD was uncommon and vision infrequent.

One day Eli was asleep in his usual place.
His eyes had lately grown so weak that he could not see.
The lamp of God was not yet extinguished,
and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.

The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you,” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am,” he said. “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am.
You called me.”

Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So Eli said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”

Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
Thus all Israel from Dan to Beersheba
came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the LORD.


Today’s First Reading tells the story of the call of Samuel.

Samuel is now a young boy, serving the priest Eli in the sanctuary at Shiloh. The Jewish historian Josephus places his age at 12 years; he may have been older. What follows is heightened by the statement that revelations and visions of God were at that time very infrequent. The books of Judges, which cover this period, indicate that very few prophets or messengers of God appeared.

During the entire period of the Judges, (apart from the anonymous prophet mentioned in chapter 2 not covered in the liturgical readings), we are told of only two prophets and of five revelations.

We are told that one day Eli was asleep in his usual place in the sanctuary. He had recently become blind. “The lamp of God was not yet extinguished”. The reference is to the golden lamp stand, which stood opposite the table of the bread of the Presence in the Holy Place. It was still night, but the early morning hours were approaching when the flame grew dim or went out. For the lamp to be permitted to go out before morning was a violation of the Mosaic Law.

It is at this moment when God calls Samuel. Samuel, in his sleep, hears his name being called. Still inexperienced in recognizing the presence of the Lord, he thinks that Eli is calling him. Twice he hears the call and twice Eli denies that he called. Eli’s own failure not at once to recognize God’s voice may be indicative that he was not very close to God. In fact, he was not very effective as a prophet (cf. 1 Sam 2:22-26).

At the third call, Eli begins to realize that something special is going on. He sends the boy back to bed and tells him that the next time he hears a call he is to answer, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” And the Lord does call a third time and Samuel responds as he was told. Now the Lord reveals his presence but what the Lord said to him at that time is not recorded. However, by this first revelation Samuel is consecrated a prophet. It was not a dream: the voice awakened Samuel. Nor was it a ‘vision’ except in the wide sense, since Samuel heard but did not see Yahweh.

We are told that, from then on, the Lord was with Samuel and his words were always spoken and listened to with effect. He was a true and reliable prophet who faithfully transmitted the word of the Lord. Throughout the country from Dan to Beersheba, that is, from the very north to the south, Samuel was recognized as a prophet of the Lord.

There are two possible reflections for us in this reading. We might ask ourselves how often has the Lord called us and we have mistaken it for something else or not heard it at all? Yet, through people and experiences in our daily life, God is constantly calling us to his love and service and to come close to him. Let us be alert this day to any calls he may make.

Second, by our baptism we, too, are in a special way called to be prophets, that is, to be bearers of the Gospel message through our words and actions. How will people come to know Christ and the Gospel if not through us?

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Responsorial          Psalm 40
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
Blessed the man who makes the LORD his trust;
who turns not to idolatry
or to those who stray after falsehood.
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me.
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

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Gospel                   Mark 1:29-39
On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn,
he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons
throughout the whole of Galilee.


Today’s Gospel Reading, continues from yesterday’s, following a day in the public life of Jesus. It was still the Sabbath and, after the synagogue service, Jesus now goes to the house of his two disciples, Simon and Andrew in Capernaum. (As it was the Sabbath, people could not go very far or do anything which could be labeled “work”.)

In the house Jesus finds Peter’s mother-in-law confined to bed because of a fever. When he is told about it, he immediately goes to see her, takes her by the hand, lifts her up and heals her. Immediately, she gets up and begins to serve them. This is not simply because that is the role of a woman in the home. Rather it is a way of saying that it is the role of the whole Christian – man or woman – to serve. Healing is not just to make one well but to enable one to become again an active, serving member of the community.

In the evening, once the Sabbath was over, people were free to move around. Large numbers come seeking out Jesus to be healed of their sicknesses and to be freed from the power of evil spirits. “The whole town was gathered at the door.” That is the door of the house where Jesus was. Many times we will see a reference to the “house” where Jesus is. It seems to be a symbol of the place where Jesus is gathered with those who are close to him, a symbol of a Christian community, of the church. When the poor, the sick and the unfree no longer come to the doors of our community seeking healing and wholeness, we need to reflect on the quality of our Christian witness.

The following morning, Jesus leaves, goes to the hills to be alone and to pray. His disciples come in search of him. “Everyone is looking for you,” they tell him. Although there are many demands being made on him by the people of Capernaum, Jesus needs time for himself to renew his spiritual energy and be in contact with his Father, and has to think of the needs of other people as well.

Jesus may have been the Son of God but he could only be in one place at a time and, during those three years of public life, he really only reached a very small number of people. To reach the rest, he needed and still needs our help.

When Jesus returns from his prayer he does not go back to Capernaum, although there were certainly more people to be healed and helped there. Instead he went on to synagogues all over Galilee proclaiming his message of the Kingdom and making it a reality by healing the sick and liberating those controlled by evil forces.

This scene brings up the importance for us of availability. We do need to be available to all those who are in genuine need. At the same time, there is what we might call the ‘poverty of availability’. No matter how generous and self-giving we are we can only give so much. We need to find a balance between people’s needs and our limited resources. We do not help people by working ourselves to the point of ‘burnout’. We also need “quality time” to be with God, to pray and to reflect on our priorities. Jesus gives us an excellent example here.

Living Space
The Irish Jesuits

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

The lamp of God: Thank you for this explanation. It reminds me of the phrase in Isaiah: 'he does not break the crushed reed or snuff the faltering wick.'

Even at night in his sleep, Samuel was listening out for any cry for help from the old, blind (fat and lazy...?) Eli. If he hadn't been, he probably would not have heard God. In today's Gospel too there is a similar connection between openness to the needy and openness to God.

On the rare occasions when I have tried to help 'the needy' I have very quickly become aware of my own inadequacies and neediness - not least for a break! It's humbling and I don't enjoy it.