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January 17, 2021: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner

Speak Lord your servant is listening.

As we enter into Ordinary Time, our readings remind us of one of the core virtues of discipleship which flow from our Baptism.  Last week on the feast of Jesus’ baptism, I reflected upon how the “scandal” of Jesus’ baptism is good news for us.  By his baptism, Jesus gives us an example of the power of humility, an invitation to be sons and daughters of the Father, and a share in His Spirit which enlightens the world.  In these first days of 2021 which portend the continuation of fear and darkness in our society, we need more than ever to be reminded of the Good News of our Baptism.

If last Sunday’s feast centered on the reasons and revelation of Jesus’ baptism, this weekend focuses on the effects which flow from our baptism. By baptism, we are part of God’s family and this reality calls forth responsibilities. At the heart of these responsibilities is our ability to listen for God’s voice, to be attentive to His call, to recognize when He calls our name.  This makes sense, if we want live our Baptism, if we want to follow Christ, we must be willing to let Him lead and guide us.  Our readings give us two stories of how listening empowers us.

In our first reading, God calls Samuel to be His prophet.  At this time, Samuel was still a young man and so “was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.”  In stillness of slumber, God calls Samuel’s name, and yet, Samuel mistakes God’s voice for that of Eli, his spiritual mentor.  Three times God calls, and each time Samuel wakes Eli in response.  Eli realizes that God is calling Samuel and gives him wise council: “Go back to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’."

Eli’s advice is wisdom for our journey.  God is eager to speak to our hearts.  Again and again in the Scripture, He invites us to listen to Him as Father, Son and Spirit.  As a loving God, our Father says, “Be still and know that I am God.” As a Good Shepherd, the Son says: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.”  As a Councilor, the Holy Spirit is the one sent to teach, guide and inspire us on our way.  The Trinity is talking to us.  Are we listening?

Discipleship is formed in silence. Though the pandemic made it impossible to travel, I usually make retreat visit to a vibrant group of Dominican nuns in Linden, Virginia.  Their monastery sits on a summit in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place of great natural and spiritual beauty.  As I prayed in the chapel and walked the grounds, I often had the experience of being startled by the peacefulness of my surroundings.  Up in the mountains, there is little noise: no traffic, no chatter, and no ambient din.  Only the sound of silence.  And it can be deafening.  We all have a filter which drowns out daily white noise, and in such silent surroundings, mine was protesting as it searched in vain for something to mute.  It is a timely reminder that amid the goodness and blessing of life, its busyness and activity, there ought to be a specific time and practical place to cultivate refreshing quiet and solitude.  Especially in this time of pandemic when we are at home, we might ask ourselves are we listening for God’s voice to speak our name?  

And if we do cultivate a place of quiet, a space of silence in which to hear God speaking, we are better able to hear His voice during the day’s activity.  In the Gospel, Simon hears the call to follow Christ, not from Jesus himself, but from his brother Andrew.  Simon was anticipating the coming of a promised Messiah and in hearing Christ’s voice through his brother; he receives a new name Cephas (Peter). There are many ways and people through whom Christ calls us and names us to be his disciples.  But are we listening?  Being a disciple is not complicated, but it can be challenging.  Sometimes we need to sit down, be silent and say: Speak Lord your servant is listening.

         ~ Fr. Michael

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