First Reading: 1 Sam 3:3b-10.19; Psalm: 40. R. v. 8a. 9a; Second Reading: 1 Cor 6:13c-15a. 17-20; Gospel: Jn 1:35-42



1 Samuel 3: Lessons from Samuel on Understanding and Responding to God's Calling

Samuel was about twelve years old when the Lord called him. Samuel lived in the temple ever since he was three. If we recalled the story surrounding his birth, we would remember that Hannah, Samuel’s mother came to the temple and prayed for a child for she had difficulty conceiving. Hannah promised God that she would return the favour by giving the child back to Him (1 Sam 1:11). Eli was at the temple at that time; and having heard the concern of Hannah, said to her, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have made to him.” (1 Sam 1:17).

When Hannah gave birth to her first fruit, and after weaning the child, she brought him to the temple when the child was three and offered him to the Lord (1 Sam 1:26-28). Thenceforth, Samuel lived in the temple with Eli. Eli was fond of him as a son because of his involvement in the events surrounding Samuel’s birth.

The call of Samuel from the first reading of today happened when Samuel was attending to his duty in the temple. Lying by the ark of God indicates that Samuel has a sacred duty around there. It is probable that Samuel was assigned to tend the sacred flames by the ark of God (1 Sam 3:3a). It was the duty of the Aaronic priesthood and his sons to tend this flame from evening to morning (Ex 27:20-21). This flame should be kept burning continually as a sign of God’s abiding presence. This explains why the tabernacle light in all Catholic Churches does not go out till this day.

When the Lord called Samuel the first and the second time, we should not be surprised of Samuel’s naive response. Samuel was just a boy. Eli himself did not understand what was going on when the little boy came to him saying, “Here I am, for you called me.”  It was at the third time that Eli was able to discern that it was the Lord who was calling the boy. And he said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” Samuel went back and when the Lord called as at other times, Samuel did as instructed by Eli; and the Lord revealed to him a message concerning the people of Israel and the house of Eli.

The call of Samuel is somewhat dramatic and peculiar when compared to the call of other biblical prophets. We might have some questions to ask regarding his call. Like, “Was Samuel awake or asleep when he heard the voice?” “If Samuel was awake, did he actually hear an audible voice or was he hallucinating? “If Samuel was asleep, could he be dreaming or could the voice, if audible have woken him up?” “If it was an audible voice, could it be the voice of someone hiding in a corner trying to pull a trick?” This is not clear. But one thing is clear in this whole story. This extraordinary experience happened repeatedly following a successive recurrent similar pattern. The threefold repetition of this call suggests something real that one cannot easily dismiss. And just in case we are thinking it was the voice of someone hiding in a corner trying to pull a trick; Samuel became a great prophet and all that was told him happened as revealed. So, this was no hallucination or any trick from someone in a corner.

This similar recurrent pattern in the call of Samuel is where our reflection today is anchored on. There is something revelatory about it. Possibly, there could be something we have been ignoring for a while now without noticing that God could be saying something to us through them. Something that recurs in a similar pattern. It must not be exactly the same as the call of Samuel. But a recurrent experience we’ve had in a dream, physically or through thoughts. Experiences like this may not just happen by chance; it could be revealing something to us.

Has the thought of someone crossed our minds repeatedly in a day or within a few days? May be a friend or a relative. Someone we have not been connected with for quite a long time. Do we think of our parents or siblings more often than usual and keeping dismissing such thoughts as irrelevant? Have we had a repeated passion or enthusiasm to do something that could be beneficial to the people around us but kept procrastinating and never did it? Have we had a repeated dream that basically follows a similar pattern time after time? Do we keep trusting a friend whom we believe would change but time and again have betrayed that trust? We may regard some of these instances as unimportant or insignificant; but perhaps they are not. When an experience keeps repeating itself again and again; it could be a call that we just need to answer.

If we reached out to those that kept crossing our minds, we may discover that something beautiful just happened to them that we need to share in their joy. Conversely, it could also happen that they are in deep trouble and needed someone to support them. The repeated drive to do something beneficial for someone or for a community of people could be God calling us to save a soul somewhere; a soul desperately in need of some little act of kindness. Dreams are not always reflections of our recent state of mind. Dreams could also be revealing something current about us that we are unaware of, or predicting our future possibilities especially when such dreams are recurrent. We should not be too quick to dismiss experiences of recurrent similar pattern. These repetitions could be God trying to open our deaf ears and blind eyes to the things we have refused to hear or see.

Samuel needed spiritual guidance to understand what was happening to him. Eli provided that in these words “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” It was only when Samuel was ready to listen that God revealed his message to him. A puzzling experience of repeated similar pattern requires prayerful listening. We should pray about it and pay conscious attention to the daily events of our life. God could in a flash reveal something to us through an experience that would help us connect the dots; and suddenly, the mystery becomes clear. But we must be very attentive.

God speaks to us every day. And God is not completely absent in our daily experiences. This is why we should not be too quick to dismiss experiences that keep recurring. If we failed to understand them; we should pray about it. If things are still not clear to us; we should seek spiritual guidance from the pastors of the Church. But if we prayed about these experiences and are patient and attentive; God will not keep silent if those experiences are relevant to us.   


Lord God, open our eyes and ears to see, hear and understand your daily call; and the courage to do what you command us. Amen.

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