The first Reading, (1Sam 3:3-10, 19), narrated the call of Samuel by the Lord to minister in his Temple at Shiloh. We recall that Samuel’s mother, Hannah, conceived him after many years of wedlock. She made a promise that if the Lord were merciful to grant her the privilege of motherhood, the child she conceived would be dedicated to the Lord’s service. The Lord hearkened to her prayer and she gave birth to Samuel. As a young boy, she and her husband, Elkanah, brought him to the Temple at Shiloh and dedicated him to the service of the Lord under the care of the high priest Eli.
In today’s Reading, Samuel who may have been a teenager “was lying in the sanctuary of the Lord where the ark of God was, when the Lord called” thrice, “’Samuel! Samuel!’”. Each time he got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am for you called me.” Initially, Eli responded that he did not call him and asked him to go back to his sleep. However, when Samuel went to him the third time to answer his apparent call, he discerned that the Lord was calling the boy and hence instructed him to respond, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” if the voice were to call again. Indeed, the voice called the fourth time and Samuel responded appropriately and received God’s message for the family of Eli. With this call, his vocation as a minister of the Lord began.
Eli was a good and holy high priest who had a positive influence on Samuel as his mentor and helped him to discern the voice of the Lord. However, his own sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were scoundrels who treated the things of the Lord with disdain and maltreated the worshippers. Unlike their father, Hophni and Phinehas refused to follow the code of conduct for priests. The message Samuel received from the Lord was distressing news for the family of Eli. The Lord was to punish the sins of his sons.
The experience of Eli with his sons are being experienced by some families today. Some parents wonder what has become of their seamless children. They bemoan the negative influence society or their peers have had on them. At times, we dilly-dally on making firm decisions which may lead to catastrophic consequences in the future. Though Eli had confronted his sons about the negative reports he was receiving about them, he should have stood them down when they remained unrepentant of their bad behaviours.
Similarly, the Church leadership had dilly-dallied with the reports of abuse of children in the past and now are suffering from her culpable in-action. Today, families and the Church are called upon to be proactive in fighting injustices and not merely retroactive.
In the Gospel, (Jn 1:35-42), John the Baptist, amid his disciples, bore witness to Jesus Christ as the “Lamb of God”. We recall that John came as a witness to the Light, (Jn 1:8). As he pointed to the Light who is also the Lamb of God, two of his disciples became the disciple of Jesus. They asked Jesus where he lived and he responded, “come and see”. They went and experienced the life of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and they were transformed by the experience that they started inviting more people to come and share in their experience. Andrew invited his brother Simon Peter whom Christ made the leader of the Apostles.
Jesus is the Lamb who was sacrificed on the cross for our salvation. In the Eucharistic celebrations we relive Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and we receive him sacramentally in the form of bread and wine, (Body and Blood). Just as Christ is the Sacrament of God because in him, God has pitched his tent among us, so do we through our Baptism become the Sacrament of Christ in the world.
Like John the Baptist who bore witness to Christ, we are invited as his disciples to bear witness to him through our words and actions. Samuel, unlike Eli, stood on the side of truth even when it was inconvenient, so are we called to bear witness to Christ even when it may be difficult.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp