“He is the Lord. He will do what he judges best.”

1 Samuel 3. Always loved that story. You know it (1-10), right?

During the time young Samuel was minister to the Lord under Eli, a revelation of the Lord was uncommon and vision infrequent. One day Eli was asleep in his usual place. His eyes had lately grown so weak that he could not see. The lamp of God was not yet extinguished, and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was. The Lord called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” “I did not call you,” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep. Again the Lord called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “You called me.” But he answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.” At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet. The Lord called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the Lord came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

The Lectionary doesn’t mention what God said to the young lad. (12-14)

“On that day I will carry out in full against Eli everything I threatened against his family. I announce to him that I am condemning his family once and for all, because of this crime: though he knew his sons were blaspheming God, he did not reprove them. Therefore, I swear to the family of Eli that no sacrifice or offering will ever expiate its crime.”

Nice. You cultivate the listening ears of a disciple of the Lord and it comes back to bite you.

On the serious side, saying to God, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” carries serious consequences. We may well hear something we do not want to be hearing. God tells Samuel of the condemnation of Eli and his family. The boy resists telling his mentor what God spoke. The old man insists on hearing it. Probably an even more profound lesson than “Speak, Lord” is what Eli says next (18b):

“He is the Lord. He will do what he judges best.”


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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