Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Speak, Lord, For Your Servant is Listening

January 11, 2012

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O'Sullivan

During the time young Samuel was minister to the Lord under Eli, a revelation of the Lord was uncommon and vision infrequent. One day Eli was asleep in his usual place. His eyes had lately grown so weak that he could not see. The lamp of God was not yet extinguished, and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was. The Lord called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” “I did not call you,” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep. Again the Lord called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “You called me.” But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.” At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet. The Lord called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the youth. So Eli said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the Lord came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:1-10)

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35)


I have waited, waited for the Lord,

and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.

(Psalm 40:2)


What an odd statement. In the days of Samuel’s youth, we are told, “a revelation of the Lord was uncommon and vision infrequent.” They must have been very dark times. The glory days of Moses and Joshua were past. The Israelites were still settling into the Promised Land. Israel was not yet a cohesive nation and tribal fighting was a regular occurrence. From time to time, a judge would arise from among the people to lead for a while, but there was no one charismatic leader to unite the people of God. Even the priests were corrupt. Eli and his sons served as priests in the temple at Shiloh. The sons were particularly disreputable, but their father, well aware of their misdeeds, turned a blind eye to their nefarious ways and did nothing. As the writer of Judges says in the very last verse of the book, everyone did their own thing.

But, as we so often find in the Scriptures, there is light in the darkness. We are told that the “lamp of God was not yet extinguished.” God was far from done with speaking to his people. In the middle of the night, he attempts to call to the boy Samuel. Samuel hears the voice but doesn’t recognize the speaker. It takes the more experienced Eli to discern what is going on, and even he is rather slow at realizing that it is the Lord speaking.

I wonder if it was truly the case that God didn’t say anything for years at a time. Maybe God felt there was no use talking to people intent only on following their own desires. On the other hand, maybe the Lord spoke, but no one was listening, and so it seemed as though there were no revelations or visions. We’ll never know for sure.

I do know, though, that God is to be found in all places, all things, all situations. God speaks to you and me all the time. Most people I know don’t hear God talking in a booming, dramatic, Damascus Road sort of voice. It’s more often the case that God uses a still, small voice in addressing us. And to hear something that quiet, we have to be like Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. We have to leave behind the everyday noise, the hustle and bustle that constitute our daily routines. We have to find our own deserted place, where, in prayer, we can hear what God has to say to us.

Even then, sometimes we find ourselves confused like Samuel. Whose voice are we hearing? Our own? God’s? Most of us could use an Eli-like person in our lives - someone who, in spite of his or her human frailties, is well-versed in the Scriptures, knowledgeable about our tradition, and experienced in prayer.


Where is your deserted place? Who is the Eli in your life?

If you’re looking for a quiet place to be with the Lord, on the Arlington Cursillo website there is a list of retreat centers in the area you might consider: http://www.arlingtoncursillo.org/thrive/thrive-sub-page-2/retreat-resources.

If you’re searching for someone to guide you in listening to God’s voice, there is a section on spiritual direction as well as a list of spiritual directors who are fellow Cursillistas on the website: http://www.arlingtoncursillo.org/thrive/thrive-sub-page-2/.

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