Wednesday, 27 February 2008

4th Sunday of Lent - Year A

Samuel 16:1.6-7.10-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
  • The Lord said to Samuel …
In its own way this disarmingly simple statement is quite mysterious. Everywhere throughout the Scriptures we find similar phrases in which we are told - the Lord spoke.

The Lord said to Samuel …

I wonder how? How did the Lord speak to Samuel? Was it an inner voice like the one Mother Teresa heard in the train to Darjeeling? Was it a vision like St Faustina had on many occasions? Was the Lord’s message spoken through an angel, as it was to others of the patriarchs and prophets, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary? The only thing we are told here, very simply, is that the Lord spoke. Very mysterious!

At any rate we learn that God does speak to us – he is not a distant God. He communicates himself to individuals and to humanity as a whole in many and varied ways but, of course, especially through Jesus Christ, and today, his Church.

Many people will tell you that God has spoken to them. As a priest I am privileged to hear many of these stories and some are very powerful. Has God spoken to you?
  • The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse ..’
God’s call is always one which causes us to move somehow beyond ourselves. It may be moving from point A to point B or it may be a movement within, a decision, like the yes he asked for from Mary. Usually we have to leave something behind, or let go of something, in order to be able to do what God asks of us. A great example of this is when he spoke to Abraham: Leave your country, your family, and your father’s house for the land I will show you.

Every priest or religious or married person has answered a similar call and in order to remain faithful to their calling they have to answer it over and over again, every day. Abraham obeyed and Samuel obeyed. Do we?
  • I have chosen myself a king ...
If God speaks to us, and asks something of us, it is because he has a plan. This is apparent from the mission on which he sends Samuel. I have chosen myself a king .. . It is not Samuel’s plan, it is God’s plan.

Samuel is sent to Bethlehem, to Jesse, to chose a king from among his sons. God’s plan is always comprehensive – in this case involving Jesse, David, his brothers, Samuel and, indeed, the town of Bethlehem and all its inhabitants, not to mention the history of the Jewish people and later, with the birth of the Messiah from the shoot of Jesse, the whole human race.

God’s plan for us is always wonderful – far more wonderful than any plan we may have for ourselves. That is why it is always wise to say yes to God’s plan once we learn what it is. If God wants us to be a priest we do well to go to the seminary; if God’s plan is for us to be married or to stay in the single life we do well not to become a priest. If it is God’s plan that we have more than 2.33 children it is always wise to let God’s plan unfold in our lives. Happiness is always to be found in God’s plan. Abraham and Samuel followed God’s plan. Do we?

Samuel goes off to Jesse’s house and sees the eldest boy Eliab and, taking note of his height and appearance, immediately thinks he must be the one the Lord wants to make king.
  • ... but the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Take no notice of his appearance or his height …’
Again the Lord speaks to Samuel and this time teaches him and corrects him. For us the message is clear – when we obey the voice of the Lord in our lives we become wise with the wisdom of God and begin to see things as God sees, to think as God thinks, to do as God does.

Pope Benedict says a beautiful thing in his book A New Song For The Lord. He says: Faith is obedience; it means that we relearn the essential form of our being – our nature as creatures – and in this way become authentic.

We have already noted that Abraham’s faith led him to obey and that Samuel did likewise. What we tend to overlook, especially when we see obedience to God as a kind of irritating imposition on our freedom, is that in our obedience we become more and more attuned to the essential form of our being as creatures.

Our obedience makes us authentic because it reconnects us to our Creator in an intimate process of allowing him to reshape us to the extent that we say yes to him. After all, isn’t this is what we were created for – to say yes to God?

Our ways, corrupted by Original Sin and further confused by our own personal sins, are most certainly not the ways of God. Seeing the stature of Eliab Samuel is tempted to think that power resides in strength and imposing looks. God teaches him that power resides in obedience to his word, to his way of seeing. This is the lesson of the Cross on which Jesus emptied himself of all his plans and surrendered in total love to the plans of his Father – and thereby found life for us all – eternal life.
  • … Samuel … anointed him … the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on.
Not many of us understand the power of obedience. All too often we have a narrow, partial view. We see the individual opportunities for obedience through eyes searching for the grand, the heroic, the spectacular. Samuel was asked to pour some oil over a young boy’s head. We might say: Big deal! Certainly it was not a very heroic act requiring much effort from the prophet. All it required was obedience. And yet, look at the consequences - a shepherd boy became king of Israel from whose line the Saviour of the world would be born; the Jewish people were to find in David’s son Solomon, the peace for which they yearned; Jesse’s name became a household word for all ages to come; and Samuel himself drew another step closer to his Lord.

We must never underestimate the power of loving obedience, especially in small things. Sometimes these are the most difficult because they seem the least significant. It is through disobedience that we were lost and through obedience that we are found.

It is now the Lenten task of each one of us to question himself or herself on the subject of obedience. Pope Benedict says in his book: …only the obedient person perceives God.

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