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Sunday Homily, 14 January 2024 - Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Updated: Jan 22

Though he had lived all his life in the Lord’s sanctuary, it wasn’t Eli who heard the voice of God, but Samuel.  This was because of God’s consecration which set Samuel apart for a special relationship with himself.  Eli was certainly no great shakes.  If all we went on is this charming narrative of Eli’s voice being confused for God’s, he’d seem to be as benign as he is faithful.  But it was not so.

This priest of Aaron was a bit clueless about his responsibilities.  We know Eli told Samuel’s mother off for being drunk in the sanctuary when she was just praying.  We also know he let his sons prey on the women at the sanctuary without reprimanding them.  Finally, Eli died shocked and heartbroken at the terrible defeat which his sons were caught up in.

So, the call of Samuel is something of a relief.  As happens so many times in the Scriptures, God gives the people a fresh start.  Instead of the corruption of mediocrity, the youthful attentiveness of Samuel will prepare the people for their legendary king.  Samuel will go from learning from a man whose name means “My God,” to listening out for and obeying the one who alone is to be addressed as such.

Our readings are speaking to us about God’s call to holiness, to a new way of being who we are.  We heard about Samuel, who will grow up in the Lord’s presence.  We also heard from the Apostle Paul, who helpfully points out that fornication is beneath a Christian’s dignity and intimacy is only for natural marriage.  Finally, we heard how Andrew and Simon followed the Lord and how Simon received a new name from him, a new way of being oneself and being with the Lord.

Together, they offer us the special message to recognise what we have become in Christ.  We typically define ourselves by a set of relationships.  Each of us is someone’s daughter or son.  Many of you will be someone’s spouse and a sibling.  We act in ways which preserve those important relationships because the people involved in them are dear to us.  All the more is it the case with Christ.

By baptism, we have been made Christ’s: we belong to him, rather than to ourselves.  Therefore, everything which is at odds with his majesty and our destiny is beneath us.  If you like, if we were to roll out our lives like dough on a kitchen bench, what would a Christ-shaped cutter leave behind?  What would remain that was a bit thin and have to be added to?

This is our chance at this early stage in the calendar year to set ourselves up well.  Soon enough, the busyness of the school term and the tyranny of bad traffic will return to us.  We shall find ourselves caught up again in the run of weeks towards the next public holiday.  So, this is the time to become intentional about what goes into one’s life.

Among the things which we should ensure are there is prayer.  This was the Lord’s gift to Samuel, the gift of hearing him.  It would be wise indeed to allocate some time each day to simple, heartfelt prayer to God, to allow him to speak to us his servants and show us the way to be faithful.

For as the psalmist says, God asks for an open ear; we have come to do his will.

Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Parish Priest

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