Saint Ita, virgin (Memorial)
Now 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.
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.
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 ran to the old priest and said anxiously, "Here I am. You called me!" This happened three times, and each time old Eli told him, "I did not call you. Go back to sleep." The Hebrew sounds quiet and mellow, a whispering play on words: Lo' kerati beni; shub shahab. Finally, old Eli advises that if God should call again, he should answer, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." And so Samuel became a prophet, a spokesman for God, who changed the course of Israel's history. His tranquil home life at the sanctuary at Shiloh was disrupted by the call to become God's prophet.
There are echoes of another prophetic vocation in today's gospel. After preaching in the synagogue, Jesus goes to Peter's home in Capernaum and finds Peter's mother-in-law in bed with a fever. How normal it was for him to notice when people were ill; and not to just stand there as a spectator. He took her by the hand and helped her up, "and the fever left her." Remarkably, the newly-recovered woman offers hospitality to Jesus and his friends. Then the crowds gather, the sick are laid at the doorstep, and mentally deranged people are freed of the demon within them.
The hubbub was too much even for Jesus. Early next morning, he went off to a lonely place to spend time in prayer. But word had gone out and he was tracked down by Simon with the reproach, "Everyone is looking for you." He responded by moving about among the neighbouring villages to preach... "for that is what I have come to do." Like Samuel, Jesus had a strong sense of mission, to do God's work. He wants us also to be faithful to our calling; to share his spirit with others, and take time out for prayer and reflection. In our own way, we take our part in Jesus' vocation in life.
Two points stand out in today's gospel. The first is healing activity; the other is the need for quiet prayer. The life-giving power of Jesus is seen in healing Simon Peter's mother-in-law. He goes on to heal the many sick people who were brought to him. These healings brought the people crowding to see him. But in the morning, long before dawn, Jesus goes off by himself to a quiet place to pray.
Though his miracles were admired, his retiring to pray alone was not so well accepted. Even his friends didn't think much of it. Peter, their leader, rebukes Jesus, "Everybody is looking for you," as though to say, "Why are you wasting time out here, when the people need you?" In time he would learn how Jesus needed to spend time communing with God. Prayer was as important to him as his work of teaching and healing.
Prayer is as vital for us as it was for Jesus. We need help if we are to live as we ought to live and if we are to actively share in his work. In prayer we express our dependence on God, and ask for grace, so as to be channels of that grace to others.