Here I Am
Today's first reading, for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, from First Samuel tells a story from Eli and Samuel's domestic church:
Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, "Here I am." Samuel ran to Eli and said, "Here I am. You called me." "I did not call you, " Eli said. "Go back to sleep." So he went back to sleep. Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. "Here I am, " he said. "You called me." But Eli answered, "I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep." At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, "Here I am. You called me." Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, "Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening." When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel answered, "Speak, for your servant is listening." Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
This story suggests that Eli and Samuel exhibit an important characteristic of a domestic church in that they serve each other. That Samuel immediately assumes Eli is calling him when he hears the voice suggests that he is accustomed to being called by Eli in this way. Samuel reveals his servant heart when he immediately jumps out of bed to do as Eli asks.
How many teenage boys in our domestic churches today would jump out of bed so readily? While we may need a few minutes to rub the sleep out of our eyes, the story of Eli and Samuel reminds us that we should all be ready to serve the other members of our domestic churches. This is easy to find among families with young children. When children indicate they are hungry, thirsty, tired or dirty then parents serve their needs and parents train their children to serve the family by picking up toys and learning other housework. When a child says "Daddy, will you play with me?" then a father could serve his children through play. Even when the family gathers as adults the family members serve each other as they prepare for and clean after the meal or sons and daughters help parents with computer and technology or parents help sons and daughters with babysitting. When anyone in our domestic churches calls out to us our response should immediately be "here I am!”
Serving each other in this way prepares us to serve those outside of the home as well. Samuel reminds us of this when he begins to hear from the Lord regularly and he commits himself to serving the people of God as a prophet for the rest of his life. Most importantly, service to one another in the domestic church prepares us for serving the Lord so when the call comes we will be ready to respond "here I am" to God as well.
The story of Eli and Samuel also reminds us that we learn about God and grow in our faith in our domestic churches. When Samuel first hears the Lord speak, we are told he was not yet familiar with the Lord. In fact, we are all born into the world unfamiliar with the Lord. Eli teaches Samuel to recognize the Lord's voice and to respond to the Lord's call. In the pages that follow, Samuel shares a message from God with Eli. This story should remind all of us to help each other recognize the Lord's action in our own domestic churches.
The story proclaimed in the first reading today calls out to each of us in our domestic churches. Like Samuel, we should respond "speak, for your servant is listening" and be ready to do whatever the Lord tells us.
Image: Huw Rees, The Call of Samuel, accessed January 14, 2018, Moody Publishers, http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/moody-samuel.