The boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, "Samuel! Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" and ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, "Samuel!" Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."" So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
I waited, I waited for the Lord
and he stooped down to me;
he heard my cry.
Happy the man who has placed
his trust in the Lord
and has not gone over to the rebels
who follow false gods. (R./)
You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
Instead, here am I. (R./)
In the scroll of the book it stands written
that I should do your will.
My God, I delight in your law
in the depth of my heart. (R./)
Your justice I have proclaimed
in the great assembly.
My lips I have not sealed;
you know it, O Lord. (R./)
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." He answered, "Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Young Samuel was attending to the old priest Eli who served the sanctuary. Hearing his name called in the night, Samuel ran anxiously to his master and said, "Here I am. You called me!" This happened three times, and each time old Eli responded patiently, to calm the anxious youth: "I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep." The Hebrew sounds quiet and mellow, like a whispering play on words: Lo' kerati beni; shub shahab. Finally, old priest advises the young man to reply if God should call again, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." In such a simple way Samuel became a prophet who changed the course of Israel's history. We may be personally afraid that God might lead us to an intense decision and the subsequent struggles entailed in priesthood or the religious life; or even of the vocation to lifelong marriage. Samuel's tranquil home life at the sanctuary at Shiloh is about to be disrupted by the summons placed on him to come forward as God's prophet.
Today's gospel shows Jesus being willing to have his plans disrupted by the urgent needs of others. After preaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus retires quietly to rest in Peter's home. There he finds Peter's mother-in-law in bed with a fever. In fact it was some of the bystanders who drew his attention to her illness. When things are amiss, Jesus is never present a merely a spectator. He went over to her and grasped her hand and helped her up, "and the fever left her." Then, noticing the needs of her guests, the now-recovered mother-in-law offers them hospitality. Then the crowds gather, the sick are laid at the doorstep, and mentally deranged people are freed of the demon within them.
All this may have been too much even for Jesus. Early the next morning, he went off to a lonely place where he was absorbed in prayer. But word had gone out and Jesus was tracked down by Simon and his companions who said, "Everyone is looking for you." Life can never be the same again. He had to move on to the neighbouring villages to preach. "for that is what I have come to do." Like Samuel, Jesus was sent to do God's work. And God expects us also to be faithful to our calling; to take decisions that can be reached only by prayer and reflection. In our own way, we are never too distant from Jesus' own experience of life.
There are two distinct aspects of Jesus in today's gospel. The first is his ministry of healing. Jesus heals Simon Peter's mother-in-law in the house of Simon and Andrew by taking her by the hand and lifting her up, and then goes on to heal many sick people who were brought to the door of the house. These healings by Jesus were in public and greatly appreciated by everyone; the whole town came crowding around the door, according to Mark. The second aspect of Jesus is much more private. In the morning, long before dawn, he goes out by himself to a lonely place to pray.
Whereas his healing the sick was appreciated by the people, his second activity (going off by himself to pray) is not similarly appreciated. Even those closest to him didn't think much of it. Peter, the leading disciple, rebukes him, "Everybody is looking for you," as much as to say, "Why are you wasting time out here on your own." Jesus himself knew that the source of his life-giving work was his relationship with God, which needed times for prayer. The time given to prayer was as important to him as his work of healing. Prayer is as vital for us as it was for Jesus. We need to keep closely related to the Lord if we are to live as he desires us to live and if we are to share in some way in the Lord's work. In prayer we acknowledge and give expression to our dependence on the Lord; we open ourselves to the Lord's life-giving presence so as to be channels of that presence to others.