My Dear Friends in Christ
Grace and Peace to you in God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. I’d like to begin this reflection by thanking Kelly for inviting me to preach during this week dedicated to Christian Unity. I’ve heard there was a time when there was not a lot of love between St. James Catholic Church and Waldorf College and I, for one, am glad that some of those old feelings of suspicion and fear have disappeared from both sides and we can work together to build up the Kingdom of God. There is much work that still needs to be done to undo the suspicion that our Christian Communities have for each other but it is situations of prayer like this that continue the grace-filled process of healing that is crucial to that ongoing dialogue. Now onto the reflection.
I chose to preach about the story of God’s call of Samuel to continue the reflection on vocation that Kelly began last week. What always strikes me about this story is that Samuel doesn’t know who God is when he calls. Why not? It says in the text that, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; prophecy was not widespread.” We know that Eli, the high priest who is training Samuel, had very corrupt sons who used to steal from the meat of offering and threaten the people who would point out that immorality. Yet, one wonders if they got this way because God didn’t speak to their childhood selves as he did to young Samuel. There’s no record of their mother singing the song of dedication that Hannah sang for Samuel. Was it the love of the mother that opened the silent Word of the Father for her son? We do not know why God chose to speak to Samuel, just that he did.
Samuel hears the call from God clearly enough to believe that Eli was the one who called. Three times he hears the call and three times he innocently asks Eli what he wants until finally Eli recognizes it for what it is: the call of God. Does this mean Eli heard this same voice at one point in his life? Is that why he can help young Samuel respond, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”? One wonders if part of the reason that it took Eli so long to recognize God’s call was because God never called his own sons who would probably have slept in the same area as young Samuel. And, yet, when Samuel tells Eli all about the revelation God made to him, that God was going to punish Eli’s house for the excesses of those sons and no apologetic act could undo it, Eli accepts the sentence saying merely, “He is the Lord; He will do what he deems right.”
God’s call is often murky and difficult to recognize. We may need the assistance of a mentor, pastor, priest, or professor, even one who is as fallible as Eli. Oftentimes, there are people who we believe would be much more capable of doing what God wants us to do and, yet, if there’s one thing that we can learn from Samuel, it’s that, when God’s will is made clear to us, we must do it regardless of how difficult it is. After all, “He is the Lord.” We must do what he deems right.