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LITURGY AND LIFE

The call to discipleship

By Lucie Leduc

01/07/2015

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 18, 2015

 

Samuel 3:3b-10, 19
Psalm 40
1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20
John 1:35-42

The call to discipleship comes in a variety of ways with a variety of results. We might hear the call of God directly from God, or through someone else’s witness to God, or we might hear a call through a simple gathering of friends, an event or an inspiration. It might happen in a religious setting, but just as easily it happens in very ordinary circumstances. Whenever and however it happens, the call is toward transformation and attaining the full, beautiful and powerful flowering of human life. If it falls on deaf ears the human potential that is so uniquely our own is thwarted and disfigured. But, for ears that are open and listening, the call reveals another precious unfolding of the glory of God in human likeness.

The readings for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time are about the call to discipleship for individuals and community.

In the first reading from the book of Samuel, we hear God calling Samuel by name in the night. The fuller story begins with Samuel’s mother Hannah being barren and praying for a son who she promises to give to God as a “Nazirite” should he bless her with the privilege. A Nazirite was one “separated” or “consecrated” to God by living in the temple dedicated to a life of sobriety, chasteness and holiness. Hannah is eventually blessed by God with a late pregnancy and gives birth to a son, Samuel. She gives Samuel to the temple in Shiloh — where she had prayed to conceive — after he is weaned, and visits him every year to give him a newly hand-sewn robe to wear. Samuel is living and serving in the temple under the guidance of the priest Eli.

While the account of Eli the priest says nothing overtly negative about him, we hear in the fuller story how his sons were defiling and dishonouring the temple offerings of food and were living sexually immoral lives in the temple and Eli did nothing to correct them. God will later appear to Samuel in a vision and call him to inform Eli of the consequences of his transgressions (1 Samuel 3: 10-18). From this and a closer reading of the whole of the text we get the sense that while Eli seems a responsible enough sort of man, he appears to be teaching and witnessing very little or poorly to his own sons and to Samuel. So we hear, “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him,” and we find Samuel confused about who is calling him. Through all of this God persists, Eli perceives God’s call and Samuel is instructed to listen. We are told finally that God was with Samuel is whole life long and “let none of his words fall to the ground.” In other words, Samuel’s words were fruitful, potent and richly fulfilled his life. In contrast, Eli’s house (ie. his life) is cut short, stunted and dishonourably ended.

In the second reading to the Corinthian community, Paul witnesses to the community about the sacred beauty and preciousness of the physical body. It seems the community at Corinth turned a blind eye to members who were living sexually immoral lives and still claiming membership in the community. In one case, it appears someone was even being regarded honourably as a Christian in the community despite their misdeeds. After a long and brutally honest corrective to the whole community, Paul appeals to their sense of right relationship with God, showing how the body is the indwelling of God and not intended for abuse, rather warranting the self-respect, love and dignity as belonging to God.

In the Gospel according to John, we hear how John the Baptist witnesses to his disciples to follow Jesus. On John’s initiative, we hear two of his disciples go and ask Jesus where he is staying and when he invites them to “come and see,” they do. After following him Andrew sets out to tell his brother Simon about Jesus and so the witness continues and Jesus encounters his followers through the witness of others.

What makes for one hearing the Word of God and being transformed by it, and another’s ignoring it?

Whatever it is, and however we find ourselves as we listen to the Word for this Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are invited to hear it afresh, to humbly set aside whatever presumption or arrogance that prevents us from hearing the Word, following it and witnessing to it for the benefit of others. Ultimately we are being invited into the full growth and giving of our humanity to others and to the whole of creation; and of our being divinized for the glory of God.

Leduc is director for Star of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert, Alta.