“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”
The word of God today is an invitation to respond to the call of God. The first reading of today is a short description of how the boy Samuel is getting familiar with the call and the presence of God. Samuel was born through a divine intervention and his mother had promised to set him apart for God’s service. He had been an apprentice to the priest Eli and it is Eli, who guides him to be attentive to the voice of God. This is how he was taught to respond: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” It is his openness to the call of God that helps him to become a faithful prophet in Israel. The lesson for us is that God often calls ordinary people, including the young, to serve within the community. Consequently, we all need guidance in discerning and responding to His will. Indeed, Samuel grows up to be an honest and truthful prophet. He proclaims the voice of the Lord courageously and never leaves it unheeded. In this light, today’s concluding verse about Samuel, “not allowing any word of the Lord to be without effect” (v.19), evokes the powerful proclamation of Yahweh, “My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (cf. Is 55:11). Indeed, the word of the Lord is dynamic and efficacious. It demands a personal response of which Samuel is a model. Our lives as God’s followers revolve around seeking, finding and responding to God’s call. Listening to the call of God is to hear, understand, and accept it in word and action.
The gospel is another illustration of how the first disciples were called and the way they responded to become His faithful disciples. John’s preaching was always in preparation for the coming of the Messiah and his followers also might have been prepared and waited for the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. John reveals to his disciples that the one who is passing by is the “Lamb of God.” Two of John’s disciples follow Jesus who turns and asks them what they are seeking. Somewhat confused, they ask Jesus where he is staying. Jesus does not tell them, but invites them to “come and see.” Well, the meeting developed into an encounter and a bond of relationship by which they became His witnesses and were ready to lay down their life for Him. Having experienced the life-giving intimacy and power of Jesus, the Word of life, the disciple Andrew shares the Word. His inevitable response is to find someone else to share the joy of his personal encounter with the Messiah. His mission of sharing the Word bears fruit. Andrew tells his brother Peter: that “we have found the Messiah” and brought him to the Lord, thus making him his fellow-disciple. This was Andrew’s first achievement: he increased the number of apostles by bringing Peter to Christ, so that Christ might find in him the disciples’ leader. Jesus looks at Simon and says, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called ‘Cephas’ or ‘Peter.’” Cephas is the Aramaic word for “rock” while the Greek word for rock is “Petros.”
The calls of the other disciples are a little different: the Gospel says that Jesus invited them and they left everything and followed him. Look at St. Mathew sitting at Tax collector’s office: when Jesus called he responded unconditionally by leaving everything and followed him. In the light of encounter we have other examples too: Zacchaeus, who had a deep desire to see Jesus, but was unable to see him due to the crowd. He climbs on a sycamore tree and waits for Jesus and Jesus asks him to come down and the result is the conversion of this despised tax collector. When Jesus enters his home, he is completely transformed and a new life begins. The story of the sinner woman, who sat at his feet and anointed his feet is the result of a transformative experience. Similarly the blind man spontaneously becomes a follower after having healed and seen the Lord.
We are called to be the signs and bearers of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: Today’s Gospel reminds us that being a disciple of Jesus means that we are to grow in faith and become witnesses for him. Bearing witness to Christ is an active rather than a passive enterprise. Knowing Jesus is a matter of experience. Bearing witness to Christ, then, demands that we should have personal and first-hand experience of Jesus. We get this personal of experience of Jesus in our daily lives – through the meditative reading and study of the Bible, through personal and family prayers and through the Sacraments, especially by participation in the Eucharistic celebration. Once we have experienced the personal presence of Jesus in our daily lives, we will start sharing with others the Good News of love, peace, justice, tolerance, mercy and forgiveness preached and lived by Jesus.
The essence of our witness-bearing is to state what we have seen, heard, experienced and believed, and then to invite others to “come and see.” Other people will see Jesus in our lives when we love, forgive and spend time doing good. A dynamic and living experience of Jesus will also enable us to invite and encourage people to come and participate in our Church activities.
St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to live their vocation and dignity as members of the Christian body is extremely relevant for today’s Christians called to live a life of integrity in the midst of temptations and moral fragmentation. Indeed, the Christians have tremendous dignity and responsibility as members of the “body of Christ” and as a “temple of the Holy Spirit”. Everything we do must be an expression of holiness and our total consecration and belonging to God, in Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the life-giving Spirit.