Samuel’s Call and Response
2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Jeremiah R. Grosse
Reproduced with Permission

In the chapter which comes immediately before today’s first reading from the First Book of Samuel, God tells Eli, the priest of Shiloh, that because he and his sons, Hophni and Phineas, did not act according to God’s laws, but abused their office, Eli’s family will be wiped out and none of his descendents will ever serve as a priest again.

Hophni and Phineas would have relations with the women who came to serve at the tent of meeting and they treated the offerings which the people brought to God with contempt. They kept the best portions of the meat offerings for themselves and offered what was left-over to God.

Since Eli knew that they were doing this, but chose to do nothing to stop them, God tells him that he will live to see both of his sons die in a single day so that none of his descendants will serve God as priest.

John Rigas and his two sons were executives at the fifth largest cable company in America. They provided cable television service to millions of Americans and the company had grown to such an extent that they were able to purchase to Buffalo Sables hockey team, begin their own sports network which served the people of central and western New York, and a radio station.

These men were given an opportunity to provide a great service to the people who subscribed with them and they did so for a while; however, in no time at all greed crept in to the equation and the Rigas’ began to take advantage of the very people that they were supposed to be serving.

After fifty years in business, Adelphia Cable filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and all of its assets were seized due to a major internal corruption scandal involving fraud and other crimes. John Rigas and one of his sons were sent to prison in 2007. While his other son was acquitted, their actions brought down a major corporation and destroyed the family name.

In the chapter entitled “What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be”, The Rule of St. Benedict instructs the monks that the abbot “should not shut his eyes to the faults of offenders; but, since he has the authority, let him cut out those faults by the roots as soon as they begin to appear, remembering the fate of Eli, priest of Shiloh.”

While God had told Eli that his time of service as a priest was coming to an end, He did allow this old man to serve as guide and mentor for someone who would serve God faithfully. Samuel, the son of Hannah, who was given Samuel as a gift from God afterbeing unable to bear children for her husband, Elkanah, was offered in service to God and he went to live with Eli.

Our first reading tells us of the calling of Samuel by God. Samuel hears a voice speaking to him while he is asleep and he runs to Eli believing that Eli is calling him. After Samuel goes back and forth to Eli twice, Eli realizes the third time that it is God who is speaking to Samuel he tells Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

Since he responded to God’s voice speaking to him, Samuel went on to play a major role in the lives of his people. It was Samuel who was sent by God to anoint Saul as the first King of Israel and it was Samuel who was sent to Jesse to find the next king of Israel from among his sons. Samuel appears before all of Jesse’s sons, but, would not eat until the youngest son is brought in from tending the sheep. Samuel then anoints David as the next king.

God’s call is not limited only to a chosen few like Samuel or one of the other prophets. He daily calls us to be of service to others. There may be someone here this morning who has heard the call to become a priest, deacon, or religious. I would encourage you to follow the same advice that Eli gave to Samuel and say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening!”

You might be wondering, “Why is God calling me? I am not a saint.” The fact is that responding to God’s calling can help us to become the saint that He wants us to be. God does not call anyone into His service without giving them the grace to be able to respond to the call and follow through on it.

Every calling has its own challenges; however, facing challenges is not necessarily a bad thing. The Rule of St. Benedict instruct the monk that the road will be narrow, at first; however, if he perseveres it will become easier over time. St. Benedict tells us not to run away, out of fear, and the first sign of difficulty. Samuel, Jeremiah, or any of the other prophets faced challenges which would have left us feeling completely defeated; however, they persevered by the grace of God.

The first step, of course, is to listen for God’s voice. All too often many are too busy saying, “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking” and this becomes an impediment to hearing God. Listen for God’s voice is a skill which can be developed and doing so will bring countless benefits and graces.

On this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, let us pray for the grace to be open to hearing the voice of God as He speaks to us. May we always be open to saying “yes”, as Mary did, and thereby transform our lives and the life of every person we will encounter.