We may think our relationship to God is a personal affair that doesn’t depend on anybody but ourselves, but that’s not so. Others help us on our way to God. Our gospel reading for this Sunday, for example, tells us that John the Baptist told some of his disciples to follow Jesus and Andrew brought his brother Simon to him. More than we know, others lead us to God.
Instead of a lonely journey, we go to God together. Another way of saying it is that we belong to one body, a church. Much of our knowledge and faith in God comes from others. We’re not lonely believers.
Our first reading is about the young boy Samuel whom God has chosen for a special mission among the Israelites. His mother senses this and sends him to spend some time in the temple; she hopes the priests there will help him understand what his calling is.
The young boy hears God calling in the night but it’s a very indistinct call; he’s a young boy and he doesn’t know what to make of it. The old priest Eli doesn’t help much at first. He tells the young man there’ s no one calling, go back to sleep.
Finally, the old man recognizes that God is calling the young man. This isn’t the first time someone from an older generation doesn’t understand someone younger. An early example of the “generation gap?” The story, we learn, is not just about a young boy finding what God wants him to do, but it’s also about someone from an older generation helping him find out.
After awhile, the old priest gives Samuel the right advice: “Go to sleep, and if you are called say ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’”
That’s wise advice. The old priest is telling him, first of all, believe God speaks to you. Then, listen humbly as a servant, without letting your own ideas intrude. Become a listener and hear what God wishes to say. Pray.
An elderly man from California calls us every few months to ask for copies of a little prayer we publish called “Be With Me Today, O Lord,” which he distributes to schools and churches in his area. It’s a simple prayer you can find over at Bread on the Waters, where a lot of prayers like this can be found.
The prayer says that God has something for us to do today and everyday; we have a mission in life and it asks God to point that mission out so that we can do it.
“I have a mission…
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
God has not created me for naught… Therefore I will trust him.
Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.
God does nothing in vain.
He knows what he is about.” (J.H. Newman)
We’ re links on a chain, a good image of how we fit into life’s larger picture. God hasn’t created us for nothing. We all have a mission in life, but we need people to help us know it.
Our Sunday readings might suggest one particular calling we need to think about and pray about and promote today–vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We need good priests and religious for our church and our world. God calls young men and young women. But they need others, like Eli, to support them in their call.
Next Saturday in our monastery in Jamaica, New York, the Passionists are having a “Called by Name” weekend for young men who may be called to our community. I’m part of it. Know anyone who might have a call? Pray, and like Eli could you also encourage them to listen to God’s call?