By Father Jean-Pierre Ruiz
God is going to call you. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, God is going to call you. Of that, faith gives me confidence. As for how or when or through whom, though, I don’t know! How do we know when God is calling? How do we recognize that God is really and not someone else? These are among the questions that Sunday’s readings invite us to ponder.
Consider the story of Samuel. At the beginning of the chapter from which Sunday’s first reading is taken, the inspired author tells us that “During the time young Samuel was minister to the Lord under Eli, the word of the Lord was scarce and vision infrequent.” Asleep in the sanctuary, where the ark of God’s covenant was located, Samuel could not have chosen a more appropriate place to await God’s call. When God does call, the young man thinks it is his master Eli summoning him. Perhaps annoyed at being awakened, the elderly priest answers gruffly, “I did not call you … Go back to sleep.”
When this happens a second time, Samuel again rises and makes his way to Eli, only to be told, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.” At this point the narrator explains how “at that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.” Samuel goes back to bed and the Lord calls to him a third time. Again, he makes his way to Eli. It finally dawns on the priest that the Lord has been calling, so he instructs Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ”
This time, when the Lord calls him by name, Samuel answers as he was instructed, and we learn how “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” How differently things might have turned out if Eli had not come to realize it was the Lord who was calling young Samuel, and if Samuel had not followed his master’s advice!
In Sunday’s Gospel, John the Baptist recognizes Jesus and points him out to two of his disciples: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Hearing this, they turn to follow Jesus, possibly more out of curiosity than anything else, since when Jesus sees them following him and asks, “What are you looking for?” they answer, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Perhaps with the hint of a smile, Jesus invites them, “Come, and you will see.” One day in Jesus’ company is enough to confirm what John the Baptist had told them. So, one of them—Andrew—makes his way to his brother Simon to tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” Then Andrew brings him to meet Jesus face to face.
Who is your Eli? To whom can you turn who might help you discern God’s call in your life and sort out what it is that God might be asking of you? For me, it was a parish priest who took the time to listen as I shared my struggles at a crucial and delicate moment in my life, and thanks to whose sage counsel and good common sense I entered the seminary. For whom will you be a John the Baptist, pointing to Jesus without drawing attention to yourself? For whom will you be for a sister or a brother what Andrew was to Simon Peter, speaking candidly of your own faith and inviting them into a life-changing encounter with Christ?
Yes, God is going to call you! No matter who you are, God is going to call you. Be sure of that! If God called Samuel, at a time when “the word of the Lord was scarce and vision infrequent,” God still speaks in our time and calls us by name. It was in the quiet hours of night that Samuel was able to hear the call of God.
It was by coming away to spend time with Jesus that Andrew was able to confirm for himself that what John the Baptist testified about Jesus was true. Whenever and wherever God calls — and God surely will call — may we be ready to answer as Samuel did, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Readings for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20
Father Ruiz, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, is a professor of theology at St. John’s University, Jamaica.