January 8, 2018

Reflection on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: "Speak Lord, for Your Servant is Listening"

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

1 Samuel 3:3-10,19; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20; John 1:35-42

“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”
(1 Sam 3:10)

On the day of my ordination to the priesthood, I stood before Bishop Kenneth Angell at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and made a profound statement of faith. It was probably missed by many in the cathedral as it seemed to be more functionary than anything else. At the time, I missed the significance of this statement as well.

Toward the beginning of the Rite of Ordination, the deacon called my name and I replied, “Present.” Twenty-two years later, I now grasp the significance of that term. In stating I was “present,” I was referring to the fact that I was fully there, body, mind, heart and soul, to fulfill God’s plan for me. Up to that point, I had studied theology and served in a number of pastoral situations. But like anyone beginning a new phase of life, I had no idea what was to come.

On that day, I didn’t know what parishes or schools I would serve. I only knew I was “present” that day, that moment, and as ready as I would ever be. All I needed was an open heart and mind and God would do the rest.

On this day, the Church stands at the beginning of Winter Ordinary Time, which will last until Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday. In these few weeks between Christmas and Lent, let us reflect on the call of Samuel as recounted on this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time’s Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 1 Samuel 3: 3b-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6: 13c-15a, 17-20; John 1: 35-42 first reading. God calls Samuel several times while he is sleeping. Finally, Eli realizes it is God’s voice. Then, Samuel replies, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:10).

Samuel was “present” much like I was on the day of my ordination. On that day, Samuel didn’t know that he would have to challenge King Saul or that he would one day go to the house of Jesse and choose Jesse’s youngest son, David, to be the next King of Israel.

“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” is a beautiful prayer for us to begin Ordinary Time. We make the same profession of faith in so many ways.

At a baptism, parents are asked the following question: “It will be your duty to bring him/her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” “Yes!” reply the parents. It is the same “present” of the newly ordained or the “Speak, Lord” of Samuel.

At a Catholic wedding the priest asks: “Are you prepared as you follow the path of marriage, to love and honor each other for as long as you both shall live?” The bride and groom each answer with an enthusiastic “I am!” The parents of a newborn or a bride and groom don’t know what’s coming. But that day they are prepared to live out the promises they’re making.

With God’s grace and inspiration, it can happen. Each of us answers like Samuel. We do so in official sacramental moments but also in our day-to-day living. We make the words of Samuel part of our daily prayer. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening today, in this situation, among these people, now. We never know what any one day will bring, but as we begin our day we ask the Lord to speak to us, for we are listening.

Faith is not just about the milestone moments. It is also about what I do today, in the here and now. That’s why it’s a good idea to begin each day with Samuel’s eagerness to hear God. Like Samuel, let’s listen for God’s voice.

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