By Barb Arland-Fye
Young Samuel’s call to be a prophet renews my sense of hope each time I read or hear the Scripture account during Mass. Last weekend presented another opportunity to hear that story (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19).
This Scripture resurfaces memories of a Sunday 15 years ago when my younger son Patrick, then in fifth grade, had been assigned to read that passage during Mass but nearly backed out because of stage fright. His religious education teachers, God’s messengers, encouraged him to go forward. That gave me hope during a difficult time in our lives.
This past Sunday, evangelist Bishop Robert Barron focused his homily on Samuel’s call, which offered new insights. Yes, the Scripture conveys the theological virtue of hope, but also encourages us to be ready to listen to God’s call to each of us.
So many voices compete for our attention: family, friends, popular culture, high culture … all kinds of people telling us what to believe, what to do, where to go, Bishop Barron says. In the midst of this, “We have a hard time hearing God’s voice.” So did the faithful in Samuel’s time.
Young Samuel wakes from sleep three times to hear God’s call and is eager to respond, thinking he is hearing the high priest Eli’s voice. In Scripture, sleep symbolizes a lack of spiritual attention, Bishop Barron says. Samuel needs help discerning God’s voice (“Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word” (2021).
Eli, finally roused from his spiritual stupor, realizes God is calling Samuel and instructs the boy to “modify his response ever so slightly: ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (Workbook for Lectors). Eli is a spiritual father to Samuel, who goes to him for direction to understand this voice, Bishop Barron says. “How many of us are not hearing the Word of God or the voice of God clearly because we don’t have an elder figure, we don’t have a spiritual master to guide us in the spiritual life?”
Our church has been passing through a time of terrible chastisement, Bishop Barron says, but our hope comes from the Good News that “in the midst of all of this, God is raising up Samuel.
This great prophet anoints Saul as King and then David as king and presides over the spiritual revival of the nation of Israel. “Even in the midst of disaster, God is about his work of salvation. That is why he calls Samuel.”
“Is God even now raising up Samuels? Raising up great prophetic figures, great teachers, great saints who will carry forward the life and work of the church?” Bishop Barron asks. “Yes, believe it, trust it.” He asks us to look for these people in the life of our church. “God never gives up on the church. He continues to raise up Samuels. Find them in our times,” Bishop Barron urges.
In my mind, the challenge lies in recognizing authentic “Samuels.” The “Workbook for Lectors” provides excellent guidance. “A selfless prophet is one who truly listens to the voice of God at all times. Because of his humility and desire to serve the Lord, the Lord blessed Samuel, ‘not permitting any word of his to be without effect.’’’ That message gives me hope.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)