January 14, Second Sunday of Epiphany,
Readings: 1 Sam 3. 1-10; Rev. 5. 1-10; Jn. 1. 43-end
“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
The passages presented to us by the Church to contemplate on this second Sunday of Epiphany all focus on the call of the Lord to us. The calling of the boy Samuel, who was given in service to the high priest Eli by his mother Hannah, provides the almost comic scene of the boy Samuel confusing the call of the Lord for the call of his master Eli. It is only on the fourth call, following the intervention of Eli, that Samuel recognizes that it is the Lord who is calling him and not Eli. The call of the Lord to Samuel will be a call to become a prophet who will announce the transition from the temporary and unfaithful charismatic rulers to the relative stability of kingship in Israel.
When we come to the Gospel it is the call of the apostles Philip and Nathaniel by Jesus which is the focus. Jesus is gathering together his disciples, so that following the call of Andrew, John and Peter it is the turn of Philip and Nathaniel to be called. The enigmatic final lines of this passage evoke the episode of Jacob’s dream in the book of Genesis 28. 10-22, in which Jacob calls the place on his way to Haran, Bethel, meaning “house of God”. In identifying this place with Jesus, St John is emphasizing, as much as he is doing in his Prologue, that Jesus is the meeting place of heaven and earth, the new Jacob’s ladder, if you will, that is our way to God the Father.
So, between the call of Samuel and the call of the early disciples, our readings today emphasize that the one calling us is none other than God himself in the person of Jesus. This means that we should expect to be called in our lives even though, like Samuel and the early disciples, this may come as somewhat of a shock or a surprise to us. However, the fact that Jesus has been revealed to us as the long awaited messiah and Son of Man, means that the call that we each receive is one which is part and parcel of the Lord’s personal relationship with each and every one of us. Yes, the relationship between us and God is one which is personal. Like the call of Nathaniel, it is one which reveals that God has been close to us since our origin. God knows our time “under the fig tree”, so to speak, the time before we become explicitly aware of our call from God. This is why when we are searching for our way in life, it is important to review of lives. The patterns of God’s presence to us at specific moments of our lives become visible when we take the time to review them. Our memory operates in this way as an ongoing source of information as to how God is present to us. When we review of lives in our memory we become aware of different layers of significance that we had not noticed before. Just like Samuel, it was only on the fourth call of the Lord to him that he became aware that the other three calls had been from the Lord and not from Eli; and whatever that enigmatic reference to Nathaniel’s time under the fig tree meant for Nathaniel, the saying of Jesus that he had seen him there, transformed Nathaniel’s understanding of that incident.
And so it is with us. When we revisit all the memories of our lives and re-read them through the lens of the call of the Lord to us, we view these past incidents and events, people and places in a new light. They take on a significance that we had not seen before. In this way, our encounter with the Lord through his call, allows our past memories to be healed. Unresolved issues and situations are brought before the Lord and transformed by him into a new perspective on our lives. Such a transformation means that nothing is ever lost or wasted from our past. All the past occurrences of our lives can be viewed as places in which the epiphany of the Lord can be found, when we view them with the eyes of faith.
The question which these passages present for us today is, are we looking at our lives through the eyes of faith? Do we see our lives through the call and response pattern of the Scriptures? It can be all too easy in life to grow rather cynical and somewhat resigned to a certain trajectory as if fate has cast us on this path. Yet, we should view our lives as an ongoing dance between our human freedom and its response to the call of the Lord. When we do this, we become more and more attuned to the times when we have not listened to the Lord and those times when we have.
There is a clear difference. When we listen to the Lord there is a certain peace of mind which comes to dwell with us and when we ignore the Lord an anxiety and dryness, a type of emptiness undermines our peace. Knowing the difference between the two ways of operating is what is called the “discernment of spirits”. As we gradually become accustomed to the call of the Lord, we grow in our capacity to distinguish between the spirits that inhabit our minds and hearts, and we become more attuned to the still small voice of the Lord calling out to us.
As we allow the message of the Scriptures to penetrate our hearts and minds today, let us ask the Lord to increase in us the capacity to listen to his voice, so that like Samuel, we may be ready and attentive to say, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening”.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.