Speak, Lord, Your Servant is Listening!
2nd Sunday Ordinary Time
January 14, 2024
In this Sunday's first reading (1 Samuel 3:3-19), the young prophet Samuel has been placed in the care of Eli, a spiritual master in a Jewish shrine. The Lord begins to speak to Samuel, but the problem is that Samuel does not yet know the voice of the Lord. He hears an audible voice, but assumes that this is the spiritual guide he lives with, the Jewish priest Eli. Once Eli realizes what is going on, he instructs Samuel in what to do when the Lord speaks to him again by saying, Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.
How does the Lord usually speak to us? It usually isn't with an audible voice from heaven! The normative way that God speaks to us is through Scripture, church teaching and a well-formed conscience. As Roman Catholics we have access to everything. How can we claim ignorance on the last day of our lives when God has given us so much solid teaching? There's no reason for us to go through life deaf, dumb and blind as to what life is really all about or to be constantly seeking the wrong things as if we do not have a sure guide. Much of the confusion in our world seems to center around sexuality, life- and-death issues, and our conscience, which can at times mislead us if it is not formed correctly. The church offers itself as a guide through these difficulties - because Christ speaks to her and we can count on this in our daily choices in faith and morals.
The Ignatian Exercises can teach us the discernment of spirits. Sometimes the fruits of one of our choices is obvious. We may get immediate pleasure from our sinful choice and then later experience guilt after the sin. This helps us to quickly realize we have followed the wrong voice. How did my decision affect others? Sometimes this is not obvious at the beginning, but rather in the middle of my choice as it plays out. Other times only at the end will we realize a choice has been sinful or that the evil one has misled us. Gossip for example, may make me feel good at the beginning or I may justify this by thinking that I'm getting back at somebody that hurt me. Or perhaps I am unconsciously making myself look good at the expense of others. But later I may come to the realization that what I have said is not true, or it now makes me feel bad that I have become someone who denigrates others. In this way, by reflecting on the fruits of our actions, we can grow in discernment in hearing the Lord's voice by how we carry it out and by the fruits of our choices.
When we pray, like Samuel, we can begin with an attitude of openness: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Sometimes he will answer in our time of prayer, more often afterward, but we can always expect him to speak to us at church when the scriptures are read or during the homily or in an encyclical or the catechism, and when we ourselves reflect on church teaching in the Scriptures. He often speaks to us also in the circumstances of our lives, but it always needs to jive with scripture and church teaching. God is subtle, because this is how we grow in discernment, but he will never lead us without having a sure guide for the journey.
Father Gary ~