So in today’s first reading from the first Book of Samuel we hear about a problem in communication. The Lord God keeps calling Samuel, and Samuel keeps missing that it is God who is calling and thinks instead it is his teacher and mentor, old Eli. On the face of it, it appears that Samuel is inexperienced, a bit slow on the uptake, not quite getting it that it is the Lord who is calling him. As our reading says, “At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.” Well, that could be, but being of a suspicious nature I wonder if there is not something else going on.
You see, I wonder that because I know what the Lord said to Samuel. It is very interesting and even shocking. But it is deliberately left out of today’s reading. Samuel finally says “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And then we skip 8 full verses, which is the Lord’s message to Samuel, and skip to Samuel growing up and the Lord being with him.
What was the Lord so persistently trying to get Samuel to hear? I know because I read the 8 missing verses. It is surprising, really. Would you like to know what the Lord was trying so persistently to tell young Samuel? You would? Well I will tell you.
I wonder if Samuel did not have some inkling, some idea of what was coming and so try some selective deafness, trying not to hear what the Lord was going to say, hoping maybe God would change His mind and give up.
I can identify with that. When I was a senior in high school the idea of priesthood started coming to me. I pretty much ignored it, shoved it in the background, thought about other things, because that was not my plan for my life. I wanted to be a lawyer. Maybe even go into politics or government. Later in college the idea of priesthood started coming back again. I would put it off, I’d investigate it for a while, then push it off again for a year, and so on. Till finally as I was getting near graduation I thought, “Look, I have spent all this time in school with no break. I will go to the Paulist novitiate for a year, take a break from school, get the priesthood thing out of my system, and then go to law school.” Well it did not work out that way. But I can identify with Samuel in his reluctance to hear the Lord speak to him. I think many of us can. Because what God says is not always what we want to hear. But what I heard was much much better than what I had wanted. I know that now. But at the time I did not want to hear it.
Let’s now jump to the Gospel. John the Baptist sees Jesus and proclaims “Behold the Lamb of God.” Intrigued, two of John’s disciples abandon him and start following Jesus. Jesus turns to them and asks a really important question. “What are you looking for?” The Jerusalem Bible puts this as “What do you want?” The Orthodox Study Bible renders this as “What do you seek?” In any form it is a powerful question. What do you want? What are you seeking for in life?
It is a risk to listen and to respond. That is what the two disciples of John the Baptist did. They sought the Lord Jesus. In the Gospel we are told: “He said to them, “Come and you will see.”