The readings are about vocation and the bond of discipleship.
They suggest that being a disciple is about attentive listening.
Samuel is in the Temple and there he hears the voice of God. He is
already a follower, since he is ministering in the Temple. But God
is going to call him to take further steps in following God. In the
Temple, the sacred flame had to be lighted from dusk to daybreak. It
was a sign of God's presence. Samuel’s task may have been that of
guarding the Temple flame as it burned through the night. That's a
wonderful image for the preacher to play with – in the world when it
is dark, we are vigilant to keep God's light burning, and called to
listen to what God has to say. Perhaps, if we listen in the dark, we
will be guided to know how to carry the flame of God into our world.
The believer is one who keeps the light going in the dark.
One such believer was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose holiday
is January 15th. In a dark world of racial inequality he
tended the flame of non-violence and racial equality. His preaching
and work led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But
today his dream for justice for all is far from fulfilled. We can’t
expect that only some have to be concerned about issues like peace
and justice. Don’t we all have some part to play, in large or small
ways, to help further the dream of Dr. King? Doesn’t his dream
coincide with the dream God has for humanity, that all be treated
equally, that justice be the hallmark of our daily ways with others?
What part do we have in this work of justice: at home, where we
work and in our society? The Martin Luther King, Jr holiday may give
us an occasion to ask God: What role do we have in fulfilling Dr.
King’s dream? Are we, like Samuel, asleep in the temple, while God
is trying to get through to us? At this Eucharistic celebration we
might make Samuel’s words our own prayer, "Speak, Lord, for your
servant is listening." We also pray at this liturgy that we have an
attentive heart to hear God and a courageous heart to respond.
Another approach. I worked in a machine shop through high school
and part of college. I learned to be a machinist by first being an
apprentice. Other machinists taught me how to work the machines,
check my results and when to ask for help. I watched and listened to
them, for they had the experience I didn’t. We all learn our roles
in life by listening and watching how others do it. We need mentors.
Samuel did. He did not know what to do when he first heard the voice
in the dark. Eli, though initially a bit slow, could teach Samuel
what he must say when God spoke again. Say, "Speak, Lord, your
servant is listening."
Like Samuel, we are already in God's service. Today, Sunday, we
are actually in the Temple "tending the flame" of our faith. But God
is calling us to hear more and to follow further. Our lives are not
stagnant, nor is our response to God, who may be calling us to a new
hearing. Today might also be a good day to give thanks for the
mentors in our lives who have taught us how to live our faith and
have guided us to know what really counts in life. During the Mass
we might call some of them to mind and give thanks for them – these
gifts from a God who calls and instructs us through others.
Notice too, the mercy of God in this passage. Samuel doesn't get
it at first, so God calls over and over again. God does not abandon
us if we don't hear, or if we have gone looking in the wrong places.
Rather, God calls again.
The notion of vocation goes through the second reading as well.
The Spirit of God dwells in us and makes us holy. God inhabits our
human flesh and so we have a dignity given us by God. We aren't made
for immorality, nor can we reduce another person to an object. We
must see one another as who we are, or can become. Remember too that
sexual union is a favorite Hebrew scriptural image for intimacy with
God. Our baptismal vocation is a call to holiness and also a call to
see the dignity of each person God has created.
The Gospel tells us about seekers who discovering a deeper call.
The people in today's story already are people looking for God. John
the Baptist is a mentor to his disciples and he points them to
another who will be their teacher ("Rabbi"). John uses a favorite
image for Jesus, "Lamb of God." It is rich in many biblical
meanings, and the commentators warn us not to settle on just one.
But we too have had our titles, our names for Jesus. How do we know
these titles are still valid for us? Haven't we changed, haven't our
lives grown? Who is Jesus for us now and how do we call upon him?
We, like the disciples of John, are being invited to follow Jesus at
this time in our lives, to spend time with him and to discover who
he is for us now. Like the two disciples we are seekers who want to
"stay" with Jesus. Can the preacher suggest concrete ways for very
busy people to "stay with Jesus"?
John’s disciples have been seekers and it is late in the day for
them. They need rest (from their search?) and Jesus is offering it
to them. The "four in the afternoon" image may be referring to the
beginning of the next day's Sabbath. These disciples will find rest,
abiding with Jesus, they will find God's rest and presence. The
invitation is to deeper friendship with the Lord. Can we hear it?
"Come and see."
The results of being with Jesus are immediate: the new followers
go out and call others. They become witnesses to what they have
experienced. Which brings up the possibility of not being shy to
talk about our faith around others. It is not of our tradition to go
around knocking on doors for Jesus (maybe some of us should). But we
could be a little more open with others when there is a chance in
daily conversations to talk about our faith.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
(A friend sends this prayer for
God be in my head and in my
God be in my eyes and in my looking
God be in my mouth and in my speaking
God be in my heart and in my thinking.
God be at my end and at my parting.
law is within my heart!"
I was saddened to read in the news that only 55% of Americans
consider Christmas a religious holiday. Perhaps, they believe that
Jesus was just a myth. If we can believe that persons such as Mother
Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, and Gandhi existed, then Jesus, whose
life is recorded in symbolic language of the Gospels, is much more
than a myth. Without the birth of this most precious child, the
darkness would overcome the world. . . the darkness that thinks life
is all about just the material things of this world. From this
impoverished and defenseless child, Jesus, would arise a new way to
live--in self-giving, nonviolent love seeking justice for the poor
and disadvantaged. How precious then are all children and all human
life. . .you just never know who may be carrying the inner light of
How very important, then, that each of us develop a consistent
ethic of life. Not familiar with this term? During a lecture at
Fordham University on December 6, 1983, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin
first articulated what he referred to as the "consistent ethic of
life." In light of Catholic Social Teaching on the sacredness of
human life and human dignity, Bernardin believes that life issues,
broadly understood, are of one piece (a "seamless garment"). In
other words, if one is committed to "preserving life" (opposing
abortion, euthanasia, etc.), one should also be committed to
"enhancing life." As he states: "Those who defend the right to life
of the weakest among us must be equally visible in support of the
quality of life of the powerless among us: the old and the young,
the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the
unemployed worker." Bernardin states, "The purpose of proposing a
consistent ethic of life is to argue that success on any one of the
issues threatening life requires a concern for the broader attitude
in society [both domestic and foreign] about respect for human
life." May all be a blessing by letting the light of Christ shine
through your good actions for life.
Consider beginning with prayer by participating in the Nine Days
for Life Novena (Jan. 18-26). An end to abortion is not the only
intention. To sign up:
To read Bernardin’s complete lecture, go to:
For New Pro-Life Movement:
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of
the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
found his own brother simon and told him,
found the Messiah."
The results of being with Jesus are immediate: new followers go
out and call others. They become witnesses to what they have
experienced. Which brings up the possibility of not being so shy to
talk about our faith around others.
So we ask ourselves:
- Do I every share my faith with another? How?
- What are the ways I can witness to my faith in Jesus? Do I?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Wayne Laws #0234897 (On death row since 8/21/85)
- Clinton Rose #035933 (12/19/91)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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