14th Jan 2018
The two Books of Samuel are classified in the Old Testament as History. History written then had the aim of influencing its readers morally, religiously or politically. The information included may have come from ‘historical’ annals, old folk tales and favourite stories which had something to say to all people. Our reading today is such a story; it has a message about how we might pick up on what God is wanting us to do with our lives. It has the homely setting of an old father-like figure and a young boy who related to him as to a grandfather; it has the characteristic pattern of threesome repetition; it is clearly set in a religious context (the Temple) and it has the engaging feature of misunderstanding prior to getting things right. It is an account of God’s call of the prophet Samuel. It is from such accounts that Fr. Daniel L. Schutte, S.J. took the refrain and used it as the chorus when he composed that now well-known hymn about our own renewed commitment to recognise God around us, His call to us and our positive response to it.
The second reading (2nd Reading – 1 Cor 6:13-20 passim) does not seem to fit in well with the other readings for today except that it illustrates the difficulty we might have in discerning exactly what is for us the right thing to do and what we should not be doing. Paul is writing to the Corinthians about a specific problem. His preaching has told these Gentile converts that now they are Christians they are not bound by any laws (Paul has in mind particularly the Jewish Law). He probably spoke most powerfully about this freedom, because he had been a strict Jew himself up until he became a Christian, but also because some of the Jewish converts thought the Gentile Christians ought to be bound by the Jewish laws. But in the morally loose city of Corinth, some of the Gentile Christians might have taken this to include freedom in sexual practices. Paul has to modify his revolutionary teaching; the freedom doesn’t extend to this; it affected the eating of food sacrificed to idols which Jews wouldn’t do, but, Paul thinks that is permissible, since the stomach is just an organ of the body; but our bodies as a whole are ourselves and are the shrine of the Holy Spirit and should not be defiled by inappropriate sexual behaviour. This is a good illustration for us of how the rules we have in our religion are derived from our beliefs about God, about ourselves and about the relationship we have with God which we know through Jesus Christ.
The gospel (John 1:35-42) passage can easily be taken to be a charming and believable narrative about John, Jesus and the first disciples, but in John’s gospel particularly, there are usually deeper meanings within the text. With no infancy narrative in his gospel the first public presentation of Jesus is made in this passage by the Baptist to two of his disciples, with the words used in catholic liturgy announcing communion: “behold the lamb of God!” The reply with a depth of inner meaning uses the word ‘follow’ as to walk behind and also as to be a disciple of. Jesus then asks “what do you want?” the words used by a priest when someone presents to be baptized and a question always challenging us. Notice also the query where Christ is to be found and the welcome “Come and see.” The call of the first disciples in the other gospels is while they are fishing (which they seem to abandon immediately), but here Simon Peter is called by his brother who first followed Christ. This all leaves us with questions about our own relationship with Christ which we need to regularly consider.