God is calling — how will we listen and respond?
By Father Dominic Garramone, OSB
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time/Jan. 17
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
At supper at St. Bede Abbey, we maintain silence, and one of the monks reads from a book chosen by Father Michael, our prior. Earlier this month we were reading selections from a book of Christmas reflections by Cardinal Carlo Martini titled “Toward the Light.” A passage we read resonated with me in connection with the Old Testament reading for this Sunday:
In the beginning, we do not find humanity in search of God, or trying to approach God; rather, in the beginning, there is God who is made manifest, who speaks and is made known through visible signs, accessible to the mind and heart, and who is in search of humanity. Therefore, the believer, who is the man or woman who achieves the fullness of self-consciousness, does not ask at a specific moment, “What shall I do?” or “What must I do?” but “What is God saying? What is God saying to me? What is being revealed to me through the signs of God’s will?” It is not the Magi themselves who take the initiative to set out, but it is the star that calls them. (“Toward the Light: Advent and Christmas Reflections” by Cardinal Carlo Martini)
So what does this have to do with the story of God’s call to Samuel as he lies asleep in the temple? God calls to Samuel by name, calls him unexpectedly, repeatedly, persistently. So it is with us. Throughout this year, God will be calling us in unexpected ways, perhaps in inconvenient circumstances, calling us personally to fidelity and service. And you and I (each of us in our own way) are seeking God’s will for us. Although sometimes we are, spiritually speaking, asleep, we need to wake up, hear God calling us by name, and respond.
WAYS TO RESPOND
But it is good for us to remember that God has been in search of us long before. The first question, as the author says, is not “What shall I do?” but “How can I listen better to what God has been saying all along?” One of the best ways to answer this question is to commit to the regular practice of daily Scripture reading and prayer. Perhaps that was one of your New Year’s resolutions, along with time management and a healthier diet!
But how to proceed? Plans for “Reading the Bible in a Year” abound, and many of them are excellent, but I find that some of the passages are a bit long and more than a little obscure for the beginning Bible reader. My recommendation is to obtain a copy of “Speak, Lord, Your Servant Is Listening: A Daily Guide to Scriptural Prayer” by David E. Rosage. His plan is divided into 52 weeks, each with its own theme, with daily passages chosen from both Old and New Testament. Originally published in 1970 and reprinted many times in several editions, it is both thoroughly Catholic and utterly accessible.
(And if I may make a modest suggestion, shop local and order it through Lagron-Miller Company in Peoria, rather than Amazon. If you need a large-print edition, they are available used through Abe Books online).
I can testify personally to the book’s potential. One of my teachers at Spalding Institute in Peoria gave me a copy in 1978, and although it actually took me two years to get through the program, it wasn’t long after that I entered the seminary. Recently one of my best friends told me that he feels like something new and exciting is just on the horizon for him, and that he wants to find ways to serve God better. I gave him a copy of the book for Christmas, and I hope I can help him discover God’s plan for him. Perhaps it will do the same for you.
FATHER DOMINIC GARRAMONE, OSB, is a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, where he serves as subprior and choirmaster. He also heads the religion department and serves as drama director at St. Bede Academy.