‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The first reading this weekend is from the first book of Samuel and tells us about the call of Samuel. The story of the early years of Samuel is like a soppy movie that many of us men hate to admit that we cried watching it. It is filled with so many emotions. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, had been married to her husband for many years and could not conceive, while her husband’s second wife had many children, and rather than be sympathetic, she was very cruel and mean towards Hannah. Children were perceived as a blessing from God and not having children was perceived as a curse from God. Hannah was a woman of great and deep faith and prayed to God all the time but this particular time, when her husband and his wives and family went on their yearly visit to the Temple, Hannah prayed with deep conviction that God would bless her with a son and if God did, she promised to give him back to God, “O Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the hardship of your servant, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.”(1 Sam 1:11)
Hannah prayed with such intensity that Eli, the priest of the Temple, thought she was drunk and chided her for it, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Sober up from your wine!” (1 Sam 1:14)
Hannah went back home with her husband and family and during that year she gave birth to a boy and named him Samuel and when he was 3 years old, she brought him to the Temple and gave him over to the service of God. Samuel was left in the care of Eli, the Temple priest, and he assisted Eli with all the Temple celebrations.
I admire Hannah, probably because I know the complete story, but I have no doubt Hannah was criticized by many for leaving her only son at the Temple in the service of God. She that had prayed so hard for a son and now was childless again. The sacrifice she made was great. But God chooses his disciples well, God knows who it is that will help in God’s plan for salvation history. Let us stop and reflect on the call of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, on Moses, David, and Solomon and on Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. This Monday, January 18, we celebrate the public holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr King’s struggle for equality and justice for African-Americans and for all who are denied their human rights and dignity still continues today. As we look back at 2020, we can see very clearly the hate, hurt and division among the peoples of America. I believe this is a good time to reflect on the words of Dr King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech: (paraphrased)
“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black and white, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”
“Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”