(Ordinary Time – Cycle B)
1 S 3, 3b-10.19
1 Co 6,13c-15a.17-20
Every believer has been called by God to know and to follow Jesus Christ. The Christian life is an authentic “vocation” that supposes the divine, gratuitous and loving initiative and a human, joyful and obliging response. The biblical texts of this Sunday refer to this fundamental dimension of the life of faith and offer a rich reflection about the theme so that we may assume and live radically our own vocation in the Christian community.
The first reading (1 S 3,3b-10.19) is the recounting of the vocation of the young Samuel that lived in the sanctuary of Shiloh in the service of the priest Eli. It is important to underline the importance that the call of Samuel has in biblical history. He is a person that serves as a link between to historical periods of the people of God: the time of the judges and the beginning of the monarchy. The book of Sirach, when it presents a eulogy of forefathers, presents him as a prophet, judge and priest: “Samuel was the beloved of his Lord; prophet of the Lord, he instituted the kingdom […], by the Law of the Lord he judged the assembly […], he called on the Lord […] offering a suckling lamb” (Si 46,13-15). The recounting of his vocations presents the call of God in a progressive form. The young Samuel learns to listen and to respond to the Lord with the help and the experience of the old priest Eli. The initiative of the call is from God, root and foundation of all vocation (v. 4: “Here I am”), but still a little confused (v. 5: “Then he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me’”). The priest Eli makes him realize his mistake: “I did not call you, my son; go back and lie down” (v. 5). The same experience happens a second time with the same result. The narrator hastens to comment: “Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him"”(V. 7). If someone has not lived a person experience of the word of God, he is not capable of tuning into to a particular call of the Lord in his life. The priest Eli, accustomed to treating God on personal terms, realizes that God is calling Samuel and prepares him to respond adequately. The priest does not pretend to occupy the place of the word of God, only prepares the way for it so that it can be heard and welcomed: “Go and lie down, and if someone calls say ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening’” (v. 9). Samuel does just this. The Lord calls him for a third time and responds to him as Eli indicated for him to do (v. 10). He listens attentively to the word of the Lord and opens himself up with availability to the Lord’s ways. Now he knows the Lord and begins to familiarize himself with the divine word, to such a point that Samuel almost immediately can proclaim an oracle on the part of God (vv. 11-18). This is the beginning of the prophetic history of Samuel: “Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground”. In the word of Samuel resounds the word of God. He was a true prophet: “the Lord was with him” (v. 19). The last verses of this section, which unfortunately have been cut from the liturgical reading, end in delineating the physiognomy of the new prophet. Samuel begins to live in serving the people, and the people recognize him as a prophet, as someone that on the part of God helped to interpret the facts of history in the light of God: “All Israel knew, from Dan to Beersheba, that Samuel was attested as a prophet of Yahweh. Yahweh continued to manifest himself at Shiloh, revealing himself to Samuel there” (vv. 20-21).
The second reading (1 Co 6, 13c-15a.17-20) is a teaching of Paul of an anthropological and moral character. In the first place, the Apostle is opposed, in harmony with biblical teaching, to all anthropology that divides man in separated parts (body/soul) and to any spiritualism that lowers or spites the body. Paul speaks of the “body” with great respect. The body is, in biblical mentality, like the support and foundation of the relational aspect of man, in front of others, the world and God. All of man, including his body, is destined for salvation. With force Paul affirms: “the body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body” (v. 13). The body will participate one day in the glory of the resurrected Christ (v. 14: “God who raised the Lord from the dead, will by his power raise us up to”), while already now it is “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19). In synthesis, the Christian – with his corporeal dimension – is a member of Christ. Therefore, Paul concludes, on the moral plane, that the believer that hands over his body to impurity and lust is unfaithful to his Christian vocation. From the perspective of the religious practice of sacred prostitution, which was practiced in Corinth, fornication is presented not only as a sexual disorder, but also as a true sin of idolatry (vv. 17-18). The body belongs to the Lord and is the visible temple of the Spirit that we receive from God. Each one, as in a temple, will have to give God glory with his own body, that is to say, to live in fullness the mystery of the Christian vocation: “That is why you should use your body for the glory of God” (v. 20).
The Gospel (Jn 1,35-42) presents the vocation of the first disciples in the Gospel of John. The text is not just a simple telling of a story. In is a scene full of theological reflection that wants to be a model of every call and following of Jesus. Two disciples of the Baptist hear him speak of Jesus that passed and followed him (v. 26-27). However, this is not sufficient. In the Christian vocation, Jesus always takes the initiative: “Jesus turned round, and said, ‘What do you want?’” It is an incise and stimulating question, besides being the first phrase that Jesus pronounces in the Gospel of John. Those two me, one of which was Andrew (v. 40), represent all men and women that go in search of the meaning and the fullness of life. They do not look for something, rather “someone”: “Rabbi, where do you live?” (v. 38). Jesus invites the to have an experience of friendship and communion with him, personal relationship that is the true beginning and foundation of Christian existence: “Come and see” (v. 39). They go with him, “saw where he lived and stayed with him the rest of that day”. The very “to stay” or “to remain” are translated from the Greek verb, menô, that in the Gospel of John indicates the life of the Christian disciple that remains constantly united to Jesus in communion of love and mission (cf. Jn 15). The Evangelist notes: “it was about the tenth hour”, a mysterious chronological indication. This can indicate that the day was already about to end (ended at 6 o’clock in the afternoon) and that the meeting with Jesus represents the fullness of the day; or as well that it was simply a way of saying that this meeting had really changed the rhythm of life of those men, and therefore, was worth remembering well the exact hour. The encounter of each man or woman with Jesus represents the fullness of the human journey and the most decisive moment of existence.
Much later Andrew encounters his brother Simon Peter and speaks to him of Jesus: “We have found the Messiah – and he took him to Jesus” (v. 41). He that was before called turns now to indicate the way and to help others to find the Lord, as John the Baptist had done with him and as Eli had done with Samuel (first reading). In the dynamism of faith and of the vocational journey of each one, human mediation is fundamental: a helping hand, a teacher, a spiritual director. God calls serving himself by way of human mediations, of which Eli, the Baptist and Andrew are some examples: men of spiritual experience, accustomed to relationship with God, respectful of the journey and destiny of others, docile to the voice of God, discreet and without any toil or anxiety of wanting to possess other persons. When Simon Peter finds himself with Jesus, Jesus changes his name: “You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas – meaning Rock” (v. 42). The change of name in biblical mentality indicates the change of the same person and of his destiny. God does not direct himself to an anonymous mass, but to each one in a personal way and expects a personal and total response for a mission that is also personal.
The readings of this Sunday offer us the possibility to renew our faith as vocation and to live our own vocation within the Church with joy and gratitude. The Christian vocation is the dialogue of two wills that unite to realize a common plan. It is not a call to accept a idea or plan, rather the invitation to enter a personal relationship with “someone”. The response expects not a generic adhesion to a movement, but a program of action or high philanthropic ideals, but a total compromise of the person to “remain” in communion of life and mission with the person of Jesus. An experience that transforms all existence according to the values of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.