The Lord called Samuel’s name. Did you hear it? Young Samuel heard it. He was Hanna’s son. Remember her story? She was the woman who couldn’t have a baby. She went to the temple and prayed fervently for the gift of a child. The Lord heard her prayer. She and her husband conceived, and little Samuel came into the world. After he was weaned Hanna, his mother, took Samuel to the temple and dedicated him to God. This was how he came to live in the temple.
Notice where Samuel was when he heard the voice of the Lord. He was sleeping in the temple of the Lord. That’s a good metaphor for the state of things in Israel at that time. Opening up the bible to read the bigger story is revealing. Earlier in the text, verse 1, we learn that “the word of the Lord was scarce and vision infrequent.” Eli, the priest, was the supervisor of the other priests. Go back another chapter and we learn that Eli’s sons were wicked. They were cheaters, abusers, and totally lacked respect for God and for others. And Eli, who supervised the other priests, and who had a particular responsibility toward his sons, did not correct the problem. So from the spiritual leadership on down Israel was spiritually asleep.
Does that problem sound familiar? Various times in salvation history, God’s people have been asleep. And sometimes some of the spiritual leadership has acted like Eli’s sons – corrupted by their greed and lust. Sometimes those in authority have acted like Eli – not acting to correct the problem.
So what did God do? God acted to wake up his people. That’s where Samuel came in. Samuel was asleep in the temple where the Ark of God was when God called his name. He didn’t understand what was happening at first, but he learned to say something important. When God called his name he learned to say this – “speak, for your servant is listening.”
And so it was that Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him. God used Samuel in a powerful way to turn all Israel back to the Lord.
The Lord Jesus called his disciples to follow him. Did you catch that? So many in Israel were anxiously waiting for the Messiah. John the Baptist had been preaching about it for some time, calling the people to turn away from their sins and prepare the way of the Lord. He had been busy baptizing folks in the Jordan river, calling them to repent and believe.
When John the Baptist saw Jesus walk by, God inspired him with the knowledge that the Messiah was there and so he said, “behold the Lamb of God.” It’s the same phrase we use in the Mass when we elevate the consecrated host. Jesus is really here, present among us, calling us to himself. John’s disciples believed when he uttered those words for the first time. They went immediately with Jesus at his invitation and began staying with him.
One of those men was Andrew. He went immediately to his brother Simon and said rather excitedly – “we have found the Messiah, “and he brought him to Jesus. It was surely the work of the Holy Spirit through Andrew, bringing his brother to Jesus, who looked at him and gave him a new name – Cephas – which is translated Peter. Those apostles are the ones whom Jesus later sent out into the world to bring the light of the gospel to all peoples, lands, and nations. God in his mercy has a plan of salvation for you and for me and for the whole world.
God has called each of us by name. Have you heard it? In the rite of baptism our names are presented to God and to all the people. In the rite of baptism we are marked with the sign of our salvation, the sign of the cross. In our baptism we are immersed into the death and resurrection of Jesus, washed clean of our sins, and given a share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal ministry of Jesus. We are called by Jesus to become spiritually awake, like the prophet Samuel. We are called by Jesus to become temples of the Holy Spirit and serve as instruments of his salvation in the world.
This weekend, we celebrate the great sacrament of baptism. It is a wonderful opportunity for each of us. This weekend, we bring these little ones to Jesus just like Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus. So let us be joyful in bringing others to Jesus. This weekend we renew our own baptismal promises. So let us once again declare our faith in Jesus. This weekend, we approach the altar of God to receive the Holy Eucharist. We will once again repeat the words of John the Baptist – “behold the Lamb of God.” Let us once again receive Jesus into our lives and stay with him. Let’s pray that every fiber of our being becomes united with the will of God so that through us, His Church, his love and mercy will heal the world.
The Lord is calling our names now. He calls us to follow him and to stay with him. He wants to raise us up to bring his light into the world. May we respond with the same words of faith that young Samuel learned – “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”