1 Samuel 3.3b – 10, 19
1 Corinthians 6. 13c – 15a, 17-20
John 1. 35 – 42
Some years ago (1990) Health Magazine published an article entitled “Signs of the Time”. It mentioned about three of America’s leading car manufacturers spending more on health on health insurance for their employees than they spend on steel for their cars. Next to on the-job hazards, the biggest threat to an employee’s health is in his own lifestyle. A rich diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and alcohol are all factors which contribute to life-threatening heart attacks, lung cancer, liver cirrhosis. A severe heart attack can cost from $30,000 to $80,000 for medical care and wages, lost over a four-month period. To protect its employees from such a financial crisis, companies provide health insurance. On the other hand, excessive exercise or dieting can be equally destructive to the body and to the psyche. Health involves more than physical fitness. It also involves our spiritual and emotional being. Physical health and energy are important values but our ultimate goal for living a healthy life style is to be a fully human loving person who contributes to society. Love and service are the ultimate goals of a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Today’s first reading tells us about God calling Samuel for a mission. Samuel responded: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
In the second reading, St. Paul speaks to the Corinthians about the body, giving it a new transcendent dignity. “Your bodies are members making up the body of Christ.” He goes on to say that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit….which shall be raised up to eternal glory.” (1 Cor 6:20) The demands of the body become insatiable when they are tuned in on themselves. Think of the time, money and energy spent on appearances while millions are struggling to survive. St. Paul invites us to use our bodies for the glory of God.
In the Gospel, St. John relates to us that the disciples of John the Baptist came and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him.
To be fully alive we must be as physically attractive as healthy and energetic as our circumstances permit. To be fully alive is more than physical. It means that our human emotions, our feelings of joy and sadness, of compassion and anger, of tenderness and fear are flowing freely in response to the circumstances of our lives. God creates us for happiness and sent Christ to make our joy complete. “I have come that you may have fullness of life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). He gives us his body in the Eucharist to nourish our soul. It is in the spirit of love that we open ourselves to the fullness of life we receive in the Eucharist. If we are goaded to be holy by the reception of the Eucharist, it will goad us to make our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit.
In his famous poem, The Hound of Heaven, Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907), who was called a hippie much before hippies became popular and who was a hippie who became holy, describes his foolish escapades and futile flight from God until he surrenders to the One he so stupidly feared.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him; and under the running laughter…
But with unhurrying chase
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
They beat – and a voice beat
More instant than the Feet –
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”
From The Hound of Heaven
To be God is to be a caller, inviter, initiator, father and lover. A God who does not beckon, beget and befriend me and whom I do not experience as One who beckons, begets and befriends me is a false God, worthy neither o belief nor of worship.
For man, to be is to be called, to have a vocation. Our response makes us to be. Responding not only befits a man, it makes him. Response is a radical decision, a fundamental choice. If calling is proper to God, response is proper to man. What happens, what can happen, when a person is willing to listen to another, disposed to respond positively to the invitation of another? A relationship starts, a relationship of dialogue. And for better or worse, their lives will not be the same again, both here on earth and beyond.
What can happen when one of the dialogue partners is God, whose call makes us to be, in whom we live, move and have our being, who created us for Himself so that our hearts are restless until they rest in Him? Changes are bound to happen. Change of name for example. Simon became Cephas. The change in name is not just external; it is a sign of internal, attitudinal change of heart and mind. Therefore, Samuel spontaneously pleaded, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.”
Today’s responsorial psalm depicts for us a whole gamut of changes that can take place when God and man meet in dialogue. The psalmist waits for the Lord, the Lord stoops down and puts a new song into his mouth. The psalmist learns that the Lord is pleased with an open ear and the gift of self rather than with sacrifices. And to cap it all: “In the scroll of the book it stands written that I should do Your will.”
Once the love-dialogue begins between God and a person, it will not only be written in the scroll of the book, but in the secret folds and inner chambers of one’s heart, that the only worthwhile thing is to do the will of God. Nothing else matters and need matter, “For I delight in Your law in the depths of my heart.”
Man’s heart delights in God’s law, God ‘s law of love, God’s covenant of love, in God’s friendship. It is not a superficial delight, it is a delight in the depth of the heart, a profound delight, deeply experienced. The heart, created to be restless until it rests in God, delights, relaxes and rests in God, quieted, calmed and serene.
Man needs God to call him into life. He needs God to keep him in life. He needs God to call him, to invite him to a higher, nobler life. He needs God to call him to the right path when he goes away. Man is a lonely loafer on the highway of life, wasting his time in marketplaces, still he is called to the vineyard. He is a sheep lost in the wilderness till the Good Shepherd calls him by name and lift him up. And, at the end of his life, man needs God to invite him, “Come, you that are blessed by My Father!”
Metaphysically and existentially, man is able only to answer, to respond. It is God who calls us, we can only respond to His call. It is a limitation built into our creatural condition. To ignore or bypass these limitations spells doom. However, the age- old temptation has been just a that: “We want to be life God,” which was heard long ago in the Garden of Eden. The vocation and the dignity of man lie in accepting gracefully this limitation and in being able to respond to God every moment and for every movement of his life. Our freedom and dignity lie in the covenant of God’s call and our response.