Is it really all about me, or are we open to God’s will?

By: By Tim Irwin

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time / Jan. 18

1 Samuel 3:3b-10,19; Psalm 40:2,4,7-8,8-9,10; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a,17-20; John 1:35-42

For 40 years the Burger King said, “Have it your way.” A television brand called My Network TV suggests that they will serve up reruns just the way I want them. Old Blue Eyes sang about a man near the end of his life who recounts his success against adversity largely made possible because, he says, “I did it my way.”

Would I be jumping to a conclusion if I thought it is all about me? And if it is all about me, then how would that impact my relationship with God? Such are the questions addressed by the readings for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The first reading recounts the call of the prophet Samuel. Still a youth, Samuel is asleep in the Temple, when a voice awakens him. The boy rushes to Eli who tells him to forget it and go back to sleep. When this happens for the third time, Eli figures out that the Lord is calling to Samuel and tells him, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel never angers at being repeatedly awakened because he doesn’t presume that, “It’s all about me.” So his heart is open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

In the second reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he addresses what can happen when we think “it’s all about me.” Paul says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him. Avoid immorality.” In other words, when I think it’s all about me, other people no longer appear to be persons and I make them into objects whose sole value is to please and gratify me. You can’t beat the Corinthians when it comes to folks who like to please and gratify themselves.

Contrasted in these two readings is the explanation of how the way I see myself impacts my relationship with God. Samuel wishes to be present to God, even though, “At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.” But that’s no problem because he is not self-centered, so he is open to the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, I’ll have no interest in being present to God if I think it’s all about me. I will ignore God as the Corinthians did. Paul says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” So we must escape sin, but that we cannot do on our own, a fact recognized by John the Baptist and some of the future apostles of Jesus.

“John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” Like Samuel, these men knew that it wasn’t all about them, so they were open to discovering what it was and still is all about — Jesus.

If we honestly hope to have a real relationship with Christ, then we have to be open to God’s will. The purpose of prayer is not to steer God’s will to our own ends, no matter how noble those ends might be. It’s a struggle to set aside one’s desires in favor of a trusting heart.

Nobody does it all at once. Let’s try to take a step this Sunday at Mass. When the priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God,” let us remember young Samuel’s words, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”


TIM IRWIN teaches at Peoria Notre Dame High School, where he chairs the Theology Department. He is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria.

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