Jan. 13, 2018

Second Sunday

THE CALL OF SMAUEL: “HERE I AM”

Readings: 1st- 1Sam. 3:3b-10, 19; 2nd- 1Cor. 6:13c-15a, 17-20; Gospel- Jn. 1:35-42

The story of Samuel shows an ignorant youth who is willing and humble to do his master’s bidding. It also depicts the need for proper discernment of vocations. Young Samuel was already dedicated to the temple following the promise made by his mother Hannah as a product of answered prayers. He is faithfully serving the priest Eli in the temple of God. Of course, it is proper that in the past Eli called Samuel at night to run some errands, and Samuel had become familiar with responding to Eli’s voice. So, the response to the voice in today’s reading isn’t different for Samuel. Scripture says, “At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet” (1Sam. 3:7). Samuel was ignorant of the Lord’s call. All he knew about was his master Eli. Secondly, God had not yet encountered Samuel face to face. But one thing was sure, Samuel’s willingness to obey. The Lord called him three times and he promptly answered, “Here I am”, each time running to the master. He did not hesitate or grumble. Samuel was a willing tool in the hands of the Master, an example of humble disposition, of service without complaint.

On the part of Eli, it is important to recognize the role the priest played. He patiently directed the young Samuel to discern the voice of the Lord. Eli served as a spiritual director to Samuel. How does the Lord call, and when? These were strange to Samuel. He only knew that he needed to respond to the visible Master-Eli. He never understood that the Master of the vineyard could call him in such an obvious way. The Bible gives a picture of Samuel before Eli thus; “Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the youth” (1Sam. 3:8). An insight into the youth stage demonstrates that it is an important stage in the process of human development. It is a stage marked by crisis and curiosity, a stage of search for vocations. The psychosocial theorist Erik Erikson delineated the youth as the fifth stage in human development. He points out that the youth period is characterized by “identity versus identity confusion”. At this stage, the youth can either develop a positive or negative identity depending on what parental and societal influences and support they have or lack. Here, “adolescents struggle to find out who they are, what they are all about, and where they are going in life”. That’s exactly what happened to Samuel. Samuel was lucky to have Eli. But the question is, do we have the Elis to help the youth discover their call in a very patient and empathic manner?

The theme of vocation stretches into the gospel of today. John stands in the position of Eli and points his disciples to Jesus. As Jesus walked by, John knew Him well and had already prophesied about his coming. John was quick to point out to the disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:36). In the episode that followed, we notice a series of events, questions and answers that go to the roots of authentic witnessing and discipleship. The two disciples heard John and followed Jesus. Jesus scrutinized their intentions by asking them, “What are you looking for?” They answer him, calling him the name “Rabbi” (Teacher). Then they ask to know more about him, “Where are you staying?” Then Jesus invites them to join him in his mission by saying to them, “Come, and you will see”. That particular step by the disciples took them into a mission that they never stepped out of again for the rest of their lives. Rather, they began to share the joy of serving the Lord. They became his disciples and began extending invitations to those they knew. Andrew, for instance, went and called his brother Simon Peter, and so, the call to discipleship continued with the first disciples of Jesus referred to him by John.

I can relate to the experiences of the first disciples in today’s gospel. As young kids, most of us went into the seminary this way, not sure of exactly what we wanted. Honestly, at first, the question asked by Jesus was a tough one for us- “What do you want? What are you looking for?”. Was I sure I would be a priest? Was anyone sure from the first moments of becoming seminarians? I doubt that. We weren’t sure what we wanted when our parents took us to the seminary. All we knew was that the seminary was a place for proper academic and moral education. It was a place where we could receive quality training and education, probably become priests. We were not the best candidates in our classes, but some of us left; some whom we thought would make better priests. They left. The seminary was a place of religious education. It was a place of formation. But that step of joining the seminary was vital, and someone has to take the young person there to see.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, let’s use today to remind ourselves that we can play the roles of Eli and John the Baptist. Many youths are confused. They hear divergent voices. They feel internal void. They are curious on what the Lord is calling them to be and to do with their lives. It is normal. The youths want to explore the voices they constantly hear. Not that they are unwilling but most of them lack the proper guidance and direction as to whom to answer. Point your children to the Lord. Show them that the Lord is calling them. Tell them to say to God, “Here I am”. There is need to serve God in the church. There is need to serve him with our talents. There is need to step up and say yes to the priesthood or the religious life. The church would die if there are no priests, pastors and evangelists. Sometimes, some young men and women have no one to encourage them. Just no one to remind them that being a priest is an option. The priestly vocation is not a left-over-vocation. It is not embraced because one is incapacitated. It is not a vocation one joins because the individual is not academically gifted. It is not a vocation taken because one is not capable of competing with peers in the society. It is not a vocation embraced because the individual lacks the ability to make money. It is not a vocation embraced because the young person is impotent or unable to have relationships. It is a vocation which rather involves sacrifice. It is a vocation of service, where one commits everything to the Lord for love of God and love of other human beings.

Today, we need both the Elis and the Samuels. We need people with the willingness to say, Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will”. If the Lord asks you what you are looking for, just tell him like the disciples in the gospel that you have come so that he will teach you. It may not be very clear at first, but He is Master, Rabbi, Teacher. He will teach you what you need to know once you come to him. “Here I am”, is a strong prayer of openness and availability. It is a prayer of dedication and commitment. It is a prayer of desire to do the will of the Father. Let us tell the Lord today to guide all youths to discern their vocations properly. Let us ask him to shun the voices of confusion, noise, violence and inordinate quest for material possessions in today’s world. Let us ask him to guide the youth to properly answer him when he calls them.