STILL SPEAKING – Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B; Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (RC)

January 14, 2024

Revised Common Lectionary
1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10 (8a, 9a)
1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20
John 1:35-42

Much as I love the ease of communication that my smartphone makes possible, I find it annoying when it rings at inconvenient times or when I don’t recognize the caller’s number. My husband and I have different approaches to dealing with these calls. I usually decline to answer them, while he wants to know who is calling and why.

In today’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, the boy Samuel is roused from sleep by an unexpected call. Although he lacks caller ID, he thinks he knows who is calling. He immediately runs to the priest Eli, who was sleeping in a nearby room. Wise Eli soon realizes that Samuel is hearing the voice of God and then helps him to respond appropriately: “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:10).

Why doesn’t Samuel himself recognize that it’s the Holy One calling to him? The writer of 1 Samuel explains that “Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him” (3:7). God clearly knew Samuel already and had chosen him, but the boy needed help from another person to identify the caller.

Many people today regard such stories of an inbreaking of the supernatural with suspicion, and few people expect such occurrences. In the same way, the people of Samuel’s time were not waiting for some extraordinary revelation. Indeed, the writer points out, “The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread” (3:1b).

As the story of Samuel’s call unfolds, we learn that God’s call to him was part of the divine plan that would make other people sit up and take notice: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle” (3:11). People would know the presence of the Holy One and hear God speaking—indeed, their ears would “tingle”—if they were paying attention to the events occurring around them.

God is still speaking in our time. The story of Samuel’s call invites us to consider how well we are attuned to the voice of God. Are we attentive to the events around us in which God may be speaking and calling to us? Perhaps the Holy One is inviting us to become stronger advocates for peace in the world, for climate justice, for migrants, for children, for those with disabilities. Maybe God is calling to us to take a new direction in our lives, be open to a new relationship, to let go of past hurts, or to serve others in a new way.

Sometimes we need the help of another to discern the call, as Samuel did. God’s call may actually be coming to us through another, as it did for some of the first disciples—for Peter through his brother Andrew (Jn 1:35-42) or for Nathanael through Philip (Jn 1:43-51).

Just as we might prefer to ignore unwanted phone calls, we may at times be unaware of, fail to recognize, or even overlook the call of God. Yet we can be sure of this: God knows us in our inmost being—and is still speaking. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

A Hymn for Today: “O God, You Search Me”

The Revised Common Lectionary appoints for today Psalm 139, a hymn of trust that expresses the wonder of being known by God from all time and in every aspect of our lives—a fitting response for communities that hear stories of calling in today’s Scripture readings. English hymnwriter and composer Bernadette Farrell has created a poignant paraphrase of this psalm and composed an equally compelling tune to which it is sung. Listen here for a performance by the Notre Dame Folk Choir.

O God, you search me and you know me.
All my thoughts lie open to your gaze.
When I walk or lie down you are before me:
Ever the maker and keeper of my days.

You know my resting and my rising.
You discern my purpose from afar,
And with love everlasting you besiege me:
In ev’ry moment of life or death, you are.

Before a word is on my tongue, Lord,
You have known its meaning through and through.
You are with me beyond my understanding:
God of my present, my past and future, too.

Although your Spirit is upon me,
Still I search for shelter from your light.
There is nowhere on earth I can escape you:
Even the darkness is radiant in your sight.

For you created me and shaped me,
Gave me life within my mother’s womb.
For the wonder of who I am, I praise you:
Safe in your hands, all creation is made new.

Text: Psalm 139, Bernadette Farrell, b. 1957. © 1992, OCP Publications. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.

Image Credit: The Call of Samuel, Frank Wesley, 1923-2022

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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