|HOMILY – 2nd SUN. OF ORDINARY [B]
As some of you know, Fr. Luke and I, along with two others, take turns visiting local nursing homes and providing a communion service, or in Father’s case, the Mass. Once, when I was approaching an elderly person in a wheelchair in the large day room, I overheard another elderly person, sitting in her own wheelchair nearby, say to a boy I assumed was her grandson visiting her: O Tommy – thank you for coming – you are the only one who listens to me!
I thought about that remark for a long time. Then I re-read today’s first reading, and it took on a different aspect. It is the wonderful story of the boy Samuel in the Temple. Samuel was there in the first place because his mother, Hannah, was childless, and made a vow to God. If God would give her a son, she would dedicate him to a life as a priest in the Temple. That is how we find Samuel sleeping in the Temple and hearing a voice calling him.
In this reading, God does not make things perfectly clear right away. God calls young Samuel who thinks it is a call from the high priest, Eli. In a similar way, in the Gospel reading, God calls the two disciples to give up their former lives and follow Jesus. Why does God call people? Why doesn’t God just take care of any given situation? The answer to this question is similar to the answer to why God made human beings – so that we can be channels of God’s goodness to each other.
The first reading and the Gospel today both fit together. They are both stories of God calling people. God calls Samuel – to recognize that God is a personal God who loves and cares for each of us. Jesus calls his disciples - to help him spread the Good News that God has sent his only Son - the Savior - into the world to show us how to live. God uses all sorts of people –the young and the old – the smart and the challenged – the sleek and the worn down to help us understand.
There are two questions that come out of these readings today. The first is, when God calls us, how do we respond? The second is asked by Jesus: What are you looking for? In some way, these two questions are connected. Let’s look a little closer.
First, how do we respond to God calling us? It took Eli two times before it dawned on him: this was no mere dream or coincidence – this was God calling. God calls each one of us to do something to help those in need. Each of us is called by God in some way to be a resource or help to a person now in our lives, or someone who will enter our lives. This could be a family member, it could be a co-worker – it could even be a stranger. Like Samuel, God’s call is not always readily apparent, but, also like the story of Samuel, God is persistent. My guess is that most of us, right now, are aware of someone we know who could use our help, our encouragement, or our forgiveness. God is calling us to do it.
Some might say – but how will I know it is God calling me, and not something else? The problem here is accepting that most of the time, when we pray, we are talking to God, telling God what we want or what we need from him. While that is o.k., it doesn’t really involve our listening to God’s call to us. And if we don’t really listen, we may, like Eli, think it is only the wind.
It brings to mind the story of our own St. Martin of Tours. Martin was a Roman soldier who also was a Christian. One winter’s day, as he was dressed in his military garb and on his horse, he was entering the city and he saw a weak beggar man wrapped only in flimsy rags. Martin promptly got down, pulled his sword and cut his large, warm winter military cloak in half, and gave half to the beggar.
That night, Martin had a dream, and in the dream, he saw the beggar, dressed in his cloak half, and the beggar was Christ who said to angels surrounding him: Martin clothed me with this robe. It is God calling you, if it somehow involves your helping someone in need. The key to our response to God calling us is found in how we treat those around us – especially those with some particular need.
God is also calling us to reconcile with anyone against whom we have a grievance. God is calling us to treat other people with patience, kindness and forgiveness. God wants us to trust so much in his love for us that we no longer need to get the better of others and no longer even need to compare ourselves to other people. This leads us to the second question; a question Jesus asked the two disciples and also asks us: What are you looking for?
Indeed, what are we looking for in this life? Perhaps when we are young, we sought an identity – or we may seek success or maybe we seek happiness – in all its earthly forms. But all these things eventually lead back to one unalterable fact: we will all come to the same end. Once we fully realize this, then our search must widen – we must begin to really listen for God calling us to show us the way.
The interesting thing is that God has already done so – he gave us his Son, Jesus. Notice how Jesus does not condemn or judge or even assume something about the two disciples – he simply invites them into his life. Our lives are short and precious – why waste them looking for some illusory happiness, when true happiness is in front of us in the person of Jesus?
Take a few seconds right now, in quiet, to think about what it is in this life you are looking for? All of the answers supplied by the world – all of them – end the same way, with multiple complications along the way. Only one voice – one person calling us to freedom – has the answer. The freedom is that of someone who knows they are always loved – always respected and always sought after. It is the freedom of following Christ – of trusting in him, just as he trusted in the Father.
The way to hearing God call us – the way to find what we are looking for is to humbly pray. Opening ourselves to God in prayer creates a receptacle for God’s call to reach us.
Let us all pray for the grace of emptying out the many noisy distractions of this world, so that when God calls us, we will answer as Samuel and the disciples did. When we can become like young Samuel, and awaken our soul to God, we will hear God calling and we will say:
Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.