Blog & Pastor Letters

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 14, 2024

01-14-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Christopher Trummer

Last Sunday we celebrated the Epiphany, when the infant Jesus was visited by the magi. Today, we have entered Ordinary Time and in the Gospel we are again presented with the adult Jesus. The Sundays and weeks of Ordinary Time lead us through the life of Christ, emphasizing his ministry and teachings so that we can mature as his disciples. With this in mind, it makes sense that we should begin Ordinary Time by returning to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and his calling of the first disciples. In fact, our readings this Sunday in general have a theme of vocation, of hearing the call of the Lord and responding properly.

In our first reading, the prophet Samuel is only a boy and is hearing the voice of God for the first time. This whole scene is rich with lessons on the spiritual life. Before we consider these lessons, we need to remember that, while perhaps most of us won’t receive the rare gift of hearing the audible voice of God, all of us can hear God speak to us in various ways, especially through Sacred Scripture, the teaching of the Church, our conscience, and in our own prayer. Jesus himself says that, because we are his sheep, we know him and can hear his voice. But we have to learn to distinguish his voice from that of strangers (see John chapter 10).

Now, back to Samuel. First, we hear that “Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was.” If we want to hear God’s voice, to know His will for our life and receive His guidance, we need to place ourselves in His presence in concrete ways. As Catholics, of course, this ideally looks like spending time before the Eucharist, whether during exposition or simply in the tabernacle.

Second, Samuel has a posture of obedience and readiness. While at first he mistakes the voice of God for the voice of the priest Eli, his response is telling: “Here I am. You called me.” This simple response implies humble obedience and an eagerness to serve. In our Responsorial Psalm, we prayed to have this same disposition: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”

Third, Samuel is persistent; he doesn’t become frustrated or give up when he doesn’t understand what is happening. Instead, he obediently follows Eli’s instructions. Sometimes we are quick to judge our prayer as fruitless or ineffective. But we need to trust the process: God wants us to form us in humility and obedience so that we can receive what He wants to give us.

Finally, Samuel hears the Lord and responds, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” His disposition of humility and openness allows the Lord to use him as a great prophet. We are told that he “grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” This applies also to us: if we spend time in the Lord’s presence, we will carry that presence in a powerful way. We will be living tabernacles, or as St. Paul says in our second reading, “temples of the Holy Spirit.” People are supposed to experience God when they encounter us. Also, like Samuel, we will only be able to speak effectively on behalf of God to the extent that we have listened humbly.

Looking briefly at the Gospel reading, it has a very similar theme of responding to God’s call. Just as Samuel required the advice of Eli, the first disciples needed help from trusted people in order to follow the Lord. John the Baptist points out Jesus as the Lamb of God to his disciples, who follow Jesus as a result. One of them is Andrew, who in turn brings his brother Peter to Jesus. None of us is alone as we seek to know God better, to hear His voice and follow His will. While personal prayer is extremely important, we should not seek the Lord in total isolation. No one has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit or the ability to hear God’s voice. Rather, God speaks to each of us and He gives everyone a variety of gifts so that we need to rely on each other. To use Paul’s image, the Body of Christ is interdependent, with each member both serving and needing all the others. This is certainly true of the variety of vocations, but also more generally of the way the Church lives her mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

Jesus, Good Shepherd, help us to hear your voice clearly in the midst of so many other voices. Increase our desire for your presence and your words. Give us the help we need in following you, and use us to bring others to you. Amen.