By Fr. Dylan James
We heard in our first reading about how God called to Samuel, and something that you and I need to remember is that, right now, the Lord is calling out to you and me. He has something to say to you, now. Something that is relevant to your time and place. Maybe a message of consolation, of strength in your pain. Or maybe a message of direction, advice to persevere or advice to stop. The problem, however, is that we so easily fail to hear what God is saying. And, on this point, today’s readings give us some useful indicators.
Samuel had the voice of the Lord speaking to him from heaven, speaking more directly than you or I are ever likely to experience. And yet, Samuel wasn’t able to recognise the call of the Lord. Samuel was, it would seem, a good boy: He did his master’s bidding. He came running to him. But, he didn’t recognise the call of the Lord. Why? The text we heard gave the reason why, “Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord”(1 Sam 3:7).
Now, let us recall, Samuel was a Jew; son of devout mother; he lived in the Temple. And yet he didn’t “know” the Lord. Just as you are I can be Catholic without really “knowing” the God that our faith gives us access to. And, if we do not really know the Lord then we cannot recognise His voice calling to us. And how do we get to know Him? By spending time with Him.
On that point, moving on to today’s Gospel text, the text does not yet have the Lord issuing His call, “Follow me”(Jn 1:43) –that call is recorded in the next verse, and what is recorded in today’s account is an important preparation for that call. In today’s account we heard about how disciples of St John the Baptist went to Jesus and asked Him, “Rabbi, where do you live?”(Jn 1:38). Now, they weren’t just curious about whether He had a flat or a bungalow! They wanted to know HIM. And they knew they had to spend TIME with Him to know Him. And, having spent time with Him, having gotten to know Him, they were ready to hear and accept the call to “follow” Him that He then gave them.
I began by saying that the Lord has something to say to you, something relevant for you today, in your current circumstances. And, like Samuel, we can struggle to “know” the Lord well enough to able to hear His call. Well, the point is this: there two things I am recommending to you today to address this: (1) prayer, and (2) reading the Gospels –the Gospels being the part of the Bible that most directly tells us about the Lord, so that might “know” Him. Let me be more specific still, and suggest to you a daily pattern to follow (one that many of you already use, and a good number of you do even more than this):
(1) daily reading a paragraph of the Gospels, and
(2) then spending 5 minutes in prayer: silent, private, talking to God and listening to Him.
Click Here for a list of 7 excerpts from the Gospels, to take you through each day this coming week, so you can make this week the start of something new.
5 minutes is short enough that every single person here should be able to achieve it. But I’d also assert (and I think I can say I witness this in many people) that 5 minutes a day can be enough to start you out on a new trajectory. A new trajectory that can start you on a path such that you might hear what the Lord is calling out to you –just as Samuel was eventually able to say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”(1 Sam 3:10)