Listen... and do
Today, this walk-through has brought us to a very happy coincidence: in the very middle of National Vocations Awareness Week in the United States, both readings speak wonderfully to the reality of God’s call.
The first reading (1 Samuel 1:1-10, 19-20) gives us the well-known, yet still powerful account of God’s call to Samuel and those perfect words that the Eli the priest teaches to Samuel: Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.
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.”
The verses selected by the Lectionary keep us focused on the call of Samuel. When the whole of the chapter is read, the account becomes more complicated and yet also very instructive.
In the verses after Samuel says “Speak, for your servant is listening,” the Lord tells Samuel of terrible things that will befall his mentor Eli and Eli’s family.
Then, in the morning, Eli presses Samuel to tell him what he had heard. When Samuel tells him, Eli responds, “He is the Lord. He will do what he judges best.”
Thus in this chapter we see a clear and tragic contrast. Eli has been given wisdom from the Lord – he is able to discern that it is the Lord who is calling Samuel (something unheard of in that time and place) and he is able to accept God’s will, even when it means disaster for himself and his family – but Eli does not act: he did not act to stop the sacrilegious crimes being committed by his sons nor does he repent and take action when Samuel tells him what the Lord said.
Samuel, on the other hand, listens to the Lord and responds with action, proving to be a powerfully effective instrument of the Lord.
The question then before you and me is this:
Are we going to be like Samuel, or are we going to be like Eli?
Are we going to respond to the Lord’s call with action, or are we just going to sit back and do nothing?
If we choose action, we could not find a more beautiful example than today’s 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.
Our Lord sees and instantly responds to the needs of individuals, works late into the night to minister to the needs of the people, spends significant time in private prayer, and keeps moving always to find new opportunities to spread the truth and the love of God.
No matter what our vocation may be, may you and I be more faithful and active in listening and responding to the call of God in our lives.