Fr. Charles Irvin
1 Samuel 3:3-10,19; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20; John 1:35-42
There are times when we’ve been asked: “Are you listening?” There are times, too, when we’ve been asked: “Would you look at that?” Today’s readings are about hearing and looking… or so it seems. Actually these scripture passages call us to go deeper – not just to hear but to listen, to take the effort to listen; not just to look but to take the effort to see. We all have our own filters. We filter out things we don’t want to hear and we don’t see what we are simply observing with our eyes. We need to go deeper, to make the effort to listen, to make the effort to see.
Today’s first reading gives us a beautiful and simple story from the Old Testament’s First Book of Samuel. A young boy, Samuel, apprenticing with an old priest, Eli, is awakened by a voice, a voice he heard perhaps in a dream. He thinks Eli is calling him. Eli is wise. Thinking it to be simply an illusion he tells the boy to go back to sleep. The voice calls a second time. After the third time Eli begins to realize that God is really calling the boy and so tells him “If you are called again reply: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
The gospel reading reports that:
John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” – which translated means Teacher – “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So why are you here today at this Mass… to simply hear, or to go deeper? To simply look, or to go deeper? And in your own home, do you and others in your family really hear and see each other? Routine, familiarity, and filtering-out are, all too often the case. The result is we feel like we are being taken for granted and not really understood.
Let me suggest a good way to see Jesus and hear what He has to say. Go to your bible and to the Gospel of St. Mark. St. Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four gospels and you can read it straight through in about an hour and a half.
Get yourself some blank paper. Read the Gospel of St. Mark straight through. Then carefully read it a second time, this time with your paper handy. While you are reading it imagine Jesus asking you, as He asked His disciples, this question: “Who do you say that I am?” While slowly and carefully reading St. Mark’s gospel that second time, write down your answers to that question every time you have an insight that seems to tell you about Him. Then, at a later time, read over your answers while spending some quality time paying attention to what they tell you about Jesus. What are His attitudes toward people? How does He treat them? What sort of a person is He? What stands out in His character?
To be sure, the awesome grandeur of God can be seen in nature, in magnificent mountains, in glorious sunsets and sunrises, in the stars of heaven, and elsewhere in nature. All of them reveal God. In experiencing them we can experience God in the beauty of His creation. As wonderful as they are, however, we do not see and meet His character and personality. The beauties of nature are not personal. Jesus Christ gives us God’s personal presence. In Christ we see and hear God in the highest and best way.
When we love others we love them with more than just our hearts. We love them by getting to know them; we love them with our minds as well as with our hearts. Do you want to be known and understood by someone you love? Sure you do! People who fall in love spend hours and hours finding out all they can about each other, what music they like, the foods they like, the things they’ve read, the experiences they’ve had, the movies they like, who their friends are, what their families are like, the attitudes they have, and so on. To know someone is to love them, and to love them is to know them.
Well, God is the same way. He wants us to get to know Him. He wants share our experience of life with Him. He wants to share with us all that we can with Him. He wants us to share with Him the relationships we have with others. He doesn’t want us to share life separate and apart from Him.
I don’t want to overlook the experience of God we find in His saints, in those men and women who reveal who God is in their extraordinary humanity, a humanity infused with God’s Holy Spirit. God is there, too, offering in them His presence to us in our own human nature. Reading about their lives and reflecting on them is another special way for us to “see” and “hear” God in ways that are accessible to us.
Finally, I cannot fail to point out the importance of quiet times… just you and the Lord together. It’s a must to set aside such quiet times with Him, times of prayer and reflection. We need to be still so His quiet, inner voice can be experienced deep within us. God’s Holy Spirit is quite capable of giving you inspirations, insights, and thoughts that draw you into “seeing” and “hearing” the Lord deep within you, personally. I realize we all have terribly busy schedules, so what about scheduling time away in a retreat? If that seems unavailable to you, what about organizing a parish evening of reflection? Your pastor could provide some scripture readings, some reflective background music, and time within such a parish event to be still, quite, and reflective. I’m sure he would be delighted to provide you and other members of your parish family with such an opportunity.
God, we must always remember, is constantly coming to us, seeking us out, presenting Himself to us. This means that we must have eyes to see and ears to hear. We must put aside our assumption that God is remote, distant, and so totally awesome that we cannot hope to meet Him. It is God, we need to remember, who comes to us to meet us, encounter us, and love us. He searches us out; He offers Himself to us. We, on our part, need to pay attention, to be open and choose to be available to Him, to listen to that small, still voice within us in which and through which He whispers His love to us and calls us to be more than we were yesterday and become more and more, today and tomorrow, the persons He dreams we can be, people who know Him and love Him.