Sunday homily

2nd Sunday of the Year (B) 17th January, 2021

Sadly, we have not been able to sing hymns for some time now but one hymn we would be singing today, if we could, would be I the Lord of Sea and Sky which has the refrain ‘Here I am, Lord, is it I, Lord?’ These, words echo the story of the call of Samuel in today’s first reading. The young Samuel kept hearing a voice calling him and, thinking it was the voice of his teacher Eli went to him. But Eli said he wasn’t calling him. On the third occasion Eli finally twigged to what was going on and pointed Samuel in the direction of the Lord.

Each of us can come to know the Lord, and in so doing come to know something about ourselves, in a variety of different, and often unexpected ways. If we are attentive and responsive, as was Samuel, we may discover the Lord revealing himself in many circumstances and opportunities: perhaps in prayer, perhaps through  reading, perhaps in other people, perhaps in the world around us, even in this time of crisis. On those occasions we may feel confident of God’s presence and his love. Others, walking into the same situation may find nothing; their attempts at prayer may be empty, walking into a church for them may be like walking into a cold room, they may look at others or the world around them and see nothing good or encouraging. Worst of all, some may even look into themselves and see nothing to give them confidence.  We can all look around and pick up confused signals. Sometimes we need help to unravel these disparate and confusing signals and messages. We need help to tune in to God’s word for us. We may need assistance in focusing in on what is there to be see, but which our eyes have failed to notice.

The young, alert and responsive Samuel needed the wisdom and experience of Eli to interpret God’s call for him. In the gospel Andrew needed John the Baptist to point Jesus out to him, and say to him there is the Lamb of God. Peter then needed Andrew to tell him, “we have found the Messiah”. To stand in need of such help, to be in need of others at key moments on our journey of faith is not a weakness but a moment of meekness, or true humility. It is also a moment of humility to be the one to show someone else the way to God. John the Baptist and Eli were both prophets, both holy and wise men. They could easily have been pleased with themselves that others came to them and were keen to listen to them. They might have been tempted by the flattery or with pride in their insights but they both recognised that the credit for their spiritual wisdom was not theirs – they both recognised that they were God’s instruments in bringing others closer to God or, as another hymn we might be singing puts it – setting the words of St Francis – make me a channel of your peace.

We will all have memories of those who brought us close to God, those who taught us the fundamentals of our faith, those who taught us the wonder and mystery of God, those who taught us that he loved us, those who taught us the simple ways of prayer, the sign of the cross, the Our Father, the Hail Mary. We are thankful for their part in bringing us closer to God. Sadly, others will have memories of those who may have kept God away from their lives, who gave a false picture of God, who drew a veil of darkness over the true face of the loving and living God.

The challenge to us today, is not to pass judgement but to respond to the call made to each of us personally. God called Samuel, and Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew to follow him. Each of us has a personal call from the Lord, each of us may also be called to be an Eli or a John the Baptist to someone else, bringing them closer to God. How? By what we say and do. Conversely, we must not stand in the way of someone coming to God. How? By not being judgmental, or hypocritical, but above all by being close to God ourselves.