In the Gospel, John the Baptist points out Jesus to two of his disciples. These two decide to follow Jesus – perhaps out of curiosity, or perhaps out of respect and obedience to their mentor, or maybe because something about Jesus himself attracts them. We can ponder the many reasons why we may begin to follow the Lord, even when we do not yet really know whom we are following. Regardless of their initial reason, these two disciples spend time with Jesus and come to realize for themselves that this man, whom John called the “Lamb of God,” is the Messiah. When we spend time with the Lord, whether in pondering his word, or in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or in service with and for others, or in the silence of our hearts, he reveals himself to us. He wants us to know him; he invites us: “Come, and you will see.” Our best response is to “stay with him.”
The joy of coming to know the Lord impels us to share this gift with others. This is exactly what we see Andrew doing. He goes out to find his brother Simon Peter, tells him the good news, “We have found the Messiah!”, and brings Simon to Jesus. Providentially, Simon Peter is willing to go with his brother to meet Jesus, who immediately gives him a new name, indicating a new mission. Andrew’s actions show us how we are to serve as evangelists: we are to go out and “find our brother,” the person or the people whom we love and whom we want to meet the Lord. We share the good news, not as an abstract bit of information but as something that has become part of us, giving us joy; we share our story of our encounter with the Messiah. And we bring them to Jesus, inviting them to meet him for themselves. Whether they respond favorably like Simon Peter or refuse the invitation is out of our control. God respects the beauty of each person’s free will, and so must we. We may not see any fruit. Nonetheless, God can use our story of encounter as a seed planted in the heart.
Another beautiful portrayal of an encounter with the Lord is given in the first reading. It begins with young Samuel “sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was.” What a wonderful place of rest, to be at peace in the presence of God. However, Samuel does not yet personally know the One he is serving: “At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.” It is the Lord who always moves first in our encounter with him. It is not we who choose him but he who chooses us (cf. Jn 15:16).
The Lord calls Samuel by name, gently awakening him. The youth recognizes his name, but he does not recognize the voice. He assumes that the elderly blind priest Eli needs his assistance; this part of “serving the Lord” Samuel can understand. We can learn from his prompt willingness to serve. Even if we do not recognize the Lord’s voice, we can recognize his will when he prompts us to attend to the needs of others.
It is Eli who helps Samuel realize that the Lord has something more in mind for him. Eli himself does not know why the Lord is calling the youth, but he teaches him how to respond: “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” This is a precious instruction for us all. In a way which is unique for each of us, the Lord speaks to our hearts. But if we are not careful, we can miss his voice, or allow it to be drowned out by so many other voices and so much noise bombarding us in the world. We need to find a quiet place in the temple of our hearts where we can listen carefully for God’s word to us. With Samuel, we too must say to the Lord, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
It is through the Lord’s own power that we can remain present to his voice. St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that we are members of Christ and one Spirit with him. This is why we can hear the Lord’s voice not only from outside, but more importantly, echoing deep within us. Indeed, our own bodies are temples in which the Holy Spirit dwells, temples where we can be present to the Lord and worship him. But this temple is holy, so we must be dedicated to using our bodies to glorify God, avoiding the sins of the flesh which contaminate his temple. We glorify God when we are good listeners, open to his will in our lives.
How do I, like Andrew, reach out to others to share with them that Jesus is the Messiah? What voices other than the Lord’s do I permit to enter my heart? When I hear the voice of the Lord, do listen to it with my ears and heart? If no, why not?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 20, no. 2. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.