Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”-and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him an said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
"I have called you by your name; you are mine." Remembering people's names–what a problem this can be; even with the best of intentions, even when we are really interested in someone and recall the actual person, the name eludes us. So many methods of mnemonic are advised and tried, just to avoid the disappointing admission, "Sorry, but I just can't remember your name." Every man and woman (and child!) likes to be recognized by name; when others forget, it is a blow to our person-hood.
God knows each individual by name totally, intimately, always. None of us is ever ignored by him; like the birds of the air, and all created things, we are forever in God's mind, under his care (cf. Mat. 10:29.) Even the person of no particular significance in his neighbour's eyes, the born loser who lives in the shadows of depression most of the time–even he (or she) is precious in the eyes of God, perhaps more precious than anyone can suspect.
Samuel stands for all the little, forgotten people. Just a boy, with no high illusions about himself, a servant and apprentice to the old man Eli; he slept at night in a little room like an altar-boys' sacristy, at the religious shrine of Israel. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, he heard God calling him by name; eventually Samuel recognizes that the call is from God, and not just from the priest, so he submits himself heart and soul to listen to God's word. Only then did Samuel discover his own potential, his new identity, the role he was to fulfil in life.
Some of us may feel a strong, but quite false, sense of our own identity. Our self-understanding derives too exclusively from our own achievements, failures, efforts and ambitions; God's plan for us hardly enters the picture at all or we dismiss it as too uncertain, too "spiritual" and remote from daily life. Biblical faith, on the contrary, insists that God calls us into relationship with himself on a day to day basis, always offering us life, and always making demands on us to live our life worthily in his sight. Called by name. For Christians, specifically, it is relationship with Christ our Lord that lies at the heart of our identity. Not only are we called by name to friendship with Jesus–we become "members of his body," sharers in his spirit. Sometimes, in prayer we can taste the rich privilege of belonging to Christ. More often, it is in the darkness of faith that we simply believe in it. But always, and in ordinary details of behaviour, we are called to live up to the standard of love and truth set y the Spirit of Jesus. That is our real Christian vocation; and only by trying to live that vocation are we worthy of our name.
Later, we all hope, we will discover our full identity in God's presence, when this life is over and he calls us by name into the next life. Like the two apostles who wanted to know Christ better, we will be invited to "Come and see."
We can probably all think of people who opened doors for us in life. Perhaps at a crucial moment in our lives they pointed us in the right direction. They were an influence for good on us; maybe they shared with us some gift they possessed, or allowed us to benefit from an experience they had or some discovery they made. We appreciate these people because they had the freedom and the generosity to give something worthwhile away for the benefit of others, rather than keeping it to themselves.
That is how John Baptist is portrayed in the gospel reading this Sunday. He had come to recognize Jesus as a very special revelation of God's love. Far from keeping that discovery to himself, he shared it with his own disciples, even though he knew that in doing so he was going to lose them to Jesus. He pointed two of his disciples in the direction of Jesus. He opened a door for them, even though it would mean a loss to himself. A short while later, one of those two disciples, Andrew, did for his brother, Simon, what John the Baptist had done for him. He led his brother to Jesus. In the first reading, Eli did something similar for Samuel, helping him to hear God's call. The readings this Sunday put before us three people, Eli, John the Baptist and Andrew, each of whom, in different ways, pointed others in the right direction, led others to the one who is the source of life.
We could probably all identify a John the Baptist or an Andrew or an Eli in our own lives, people who, in some way or another, brought us to the Lord, or helped us to recognize and receive the Lord who was present to us. We might think first of our own parents who brought us to the baptismal font as infants. As early as possible into our lives they wanted to say to us what John the Baptist said to his disciples, 'Look, there is the lamb of God'. Then, in the following years, they may helped us to grow in our relationship the Lord into whom we had been baptized, bringing us to the church, praying with us, reading stories from the gospels to us, taking us to see the crib at Christmas, placing an image of the Lord or of one of the saints in our room, helping us to prepare for the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confirmation. If we were fortunate, we might have had a good religion teacher at school who took us a step further in our relationship with the Lord, who enabled us to 'come and see', in the words of the gospel reading today. I went to secondary school in Beneavin College in Finglas, and one of the De La Salle brothers there brought us through the gospel of Luke in religion class. Looking back, he was sharing with us his own relationship with the Lord. It made a deep impression on me at the time.
Samuel who was led to the Lord by Eli is described in the first reading as a boy. In the gospel reading, the two disciples who were led to the Lord by John the Baptist and Simon who was led there by Andrew were all adults. It was as adults that they allowed themselves to be directed towards the person of Jesus. In our adult years, we too may have met people who helped us to grow in our relationship with the Lord. There can come a time in our adult life, when we are very open to a reawakening, a deepening, of our faith. We may find themselves searching for something more than we presently experience. The first words of Jesus to the disciples of John the Baptist took the form of the question, 'What do you want?', or, 'What are you searching for?' Jesus sought to engage with those who were searching. He enters our adult lives in response to our deepest longings. In our searching we can meet someone or some group who opens a door for us into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Through them the Lord can reach us and touch our lives in a way he had never done so before.
At any time in our adult life we can meet a John the Baptist who says to us, 'Look, there is the Lamb of God', and that can happen to us over and over again, right up to the very end of our lives. The Lord never ceases to call us through others into a deeper relationship with himself. Indeed, there can come a time when the Lord asks any one of us to be a John the Baptist or an Andrew or an Eli for somebody else. He may call us to share our faith in some simple way, to open a door to the Lord for others. Our response to such a call can take many different forms. For Eli it took the form of helping the younger Samuel to find the right words for his prayer. For Andrew, it took the form of sharing a significant experience with his brother. The readings this Sunday invite us to be open to the many ways the Lord can draw us to himself, and also to the ways that he may be calling us to help him in drawing others to himself.