After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: "O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a Nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head."
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, "How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine." But Hannah answered, "No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time." Then Eli answered, "Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him." And she said, "Let your servant find favour in your sight." Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.
They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time, Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, "I have asked him of the Lord."
My heart exults in the Lord.
I find my strength in my God;
my mouth laughs at my enemies
as I rejoice in your saving help. (R./)
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the weak are clothed with strength.
Those with plenty must labour for bread,
but the hungry need work no more.
The childless wife has children now
but the fruitful wife bears no more. (R./)
It is the Lord who gives life and death,
he brings men to the grave and back;
it is the Lord who gives poverty and riches.
He brings men low and raises them on high. (R./)
He lifts up the lowly from the dust,
from the dungheap he raises the poor
to set him in the company of princes,
to give him a glorious throne. (R./)
They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching -- with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
May your words, O Lord, be on my lips and in my heart. May they guide my life and keep me near to you.
As the people were spellbound about Jesus, his "new teaching" and his special authority, we too are invited to give him our full attention. He brought new life to those who were sitting in darkness, in need of a clear vision to live by. He gives us ideals to aim at and an inspiring example to follow: his own.
The prayerful wife, Hannah, shows great dignity in spite of her grief at being childless. She gives an honest answer to the high priest who accused her of being drunk. "I am an unhappy woman.... I am only pouring out my troubles to the Lord." What else could Eli reply to her anguished sincerity but "May the God of Israel grant your request." After giving birth, the delighted Hannah decides to consecrate her newborn son as a Nazirite. He would belong to the Lord in a special way and show his consecration by never drinking wine and strong drink, never shaving the beard nor cutting the hair on his head.
Our Scriptures for today summon us to respond to the creative grace that is given to us; to wait patiently and prayerfully for such moments of grace and to pour out our soul in prayer to God. We need those invisible impulses of grace to live as fully as we should and do our share in what needs to be done.