Two characters catch our attention in Sunday’s Readings. There is Eli who helped the young Samuel respond to God’s calling. Then there is Andrew in the Gospel who invited his brother Simon Peter to meet Jesus. These two characters were divine instruments in the vocation of Samuel and Peter. But these two characters differed in their relationship with God.
The aged Eli had known the evil of his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, but had failed to correct them. He had condoned evil and thus incurred the wrath of God. God revealed this to Samuel in these words, “And I tell him (Eli) that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of his (Eli’s) house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”(1Sam 3:13-14)
It was this same Eli who helped Samuel respond to God’s mysterious voice in today’s First Reading. The inexperienced Samuel heard God’s voice several times but repeatedly presented himself to Eli. Eli eventually recognized that it was God calling Samuel. He then instructed Samuel exactly what to do and say when he heard the same voice, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant is listening.’” When Samuel did that, God revealed Himself to Samuel making him one of the greatest prophets in Israel.
Then, we have Andrew, who was privileged to hear John the Baptist’s words about Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” He followed Jesus and had an intimate encounter with Jesus for a whole day, “They stayed with Him (Jesus) that day.” Filled with love for Jesus and desiring to communicate this joy to others, Andrew “first found his own brother Simon,” and then “brought him to Jesus.” This was the beginning of the vocation of Peter, the Prince of Apostles, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” – which is translated Peter.”
Jesus offers each and every one of us the same invitation that He offered in today’s Gospel, “Come, and you will see.” He is inviting us daily through the people that we meet and live with, whether they are themselves faithful to Christ or not.
Why is Jesus Christ inviting us to Him through all the people that we meet irrespective of their own moral or spiritual life? We are constantly invited to draw nearer to Jesus because we belong to Him and He paid a huge price to make us His own. In the words of St. Paul, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? You are not your own. For you have been purchased at a great price.”(1Cor 6:15,19-20) Jesus, the Good Shepherd who is ready to risk the safety of ninety-nine for the sake of the lost sheep, is ready to seek for the lost sheep by all means, even if He has to use flawed messengers.
I remember an experience in my first year in the seminary. I was attending a priestly ordination liturgy at the Boston Cathedral in the early part of 2002 at the height of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. The ordaining prelate was the late Bernard Cardinal Law. There were news crews outside the cathedral. There were protesters calling for the resignation of the cardinal for his handling of the several abuse cases. The morale among the clergy was very low. There was justifiable anger and disappointment inside and outside the Church. We seminarians were trying to grasp the magnitude of the scandal and the effect it would have on the faithful for a long time to come.
The late cardinal reminded us in his homily that God continues to invite all of us through a Church that is never a stranger to weakness and failure. He asked the newly ordained not to doubt their vocations because of their weakness but to place their trust in Jesus who never ceases to invite us to Him. I would never forget his words that day in the painful history of the Church in Boston.
Of course his words did not heal the wounds of the abuse of many. It did not remove our anger or disappointment or make him more trustworthy. But I saw in his words an invitation to look beyond the weak channels of the Gospel and to focus on the power of divine grace being offered in the Gospel. It is so easy for us to lose our faith in Jesus and a sense of His loving invitation to us because of the flaws and failures of the messengers of the Gospel. By recalling the words of St. Paul, “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,”(2Cor 4:7) we must not allow the weakness of the Gospel’s messengers blind us to the beauty and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus’ invitation to us today is continuously being mediated through human channels who usually fall short of all expectations. The channels of this invitation may be poor or rich, faithful or faithless, sinful or holy, educated or not, wise or foolish. Jesus does not discriminate in the channels that He uses to draw us to Him and to embrace our vocations in life. The challenge is for us to look beyond the human messenger to embrace the transforming invitation from God. We cannot judge the authenticity of the invitation from Jesus by the spiritual or moral life of the messenger.
We encounter the blood of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is the huge price that Jesus has paid so that we belong to Him and to Him alone. This is why He would never cease to invite each of us, saying, “Come, and you will see.” Jesus is in our midst and His invitation will continue to come to us through many human messengers in our lives. We will not be disappointed if we choose to look beyond the human messengers and embrace this loving invitation with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who has purchased us at a great price.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!