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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Samuel 3,1-10.19-20

Now, the boy Samuel was serving Yahweh in the presence of Eli; in those days it was rare for Yahweh to speak; visions were uncommon. One day, it happened that Eli was lying down in his room. His eyes were beginning to grow dim; he could no longer see. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying in Yahweh's sanctuary, where the ark of God was, when Yahweh called, 'Samuel! Samuel!' He answered, 'Here I am,' and, running to Eli, he said, 'Here I am, as you called me.' Eli said, 'I did not call. Go back and lie down.' So he went and lay down. And again Yahweh called, 'Samuel! Samuel!' He got up and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am, as you called me.' He replied, 'I did not call, my son; go back and lie down.' As yet, Samuel had no knowledge of Yahweh and the word of Yahweh had not yet been revealed to him. Again Yahweh called, the third time. He got up and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am, as you called me.' Eli then understood that Yahweh was calling the child, and he said to Samuel, 'Go and lie down, and if someone calls say, "Speak, Yahweh; for your servant is listening." ' So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Yahweh then came and stood by, calling as he had done before, 'Samuel! Samuel!' Samuel answered, 'Speak, Yahweh; for your servant is listening.' Samuel grew up. Yahweh was with him and did not let a single word fall to the ground of all that he had told him. All Israel knew, from Dan to Beersheba, that Samuel was attested as a prophet of Yahweh.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

It was a difficult time for Israel. The passage opens by noting that Samuel "was ministering to the Lord under Eli." However, it adds quickly, "the word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread." Everything seems to be converging toward the fall of Israel without any possibility of renewal. The absence of prophecy meant the very absence of God and therefore the absence of a light to guide the way. The rarity of the Word rendered impossible sweeping, audacious visions of a beautiful future for all of the people of Israel. The same could be said for the beginning of this third millennium: visions are rare and dreams of a just and humane world without scandalous inequalities are hard to come by. Everyone is turned in on oneself , concerned only with oneself and enclosed in one’s bubbles. People do not go beyond themselves, their own reality, their group, their ethnicity or their nation. They lack a universal vision for all of humanity in its expansiveness. Eli, who should have had such visions, was aged in his blindness and secluded in his room, and Samuel was still just a boy. However, Sacred Scripture reads, "The lamp of God had not yet gone out." The Lord was still watching over His people. His love indeed is far greater than that of His children. And, look, while Samuel is sleeping the Lord calls him. Three times Samuel hears God’s call and each time he runs to Eli. The third time, the priest tells Samuel what to do. The passage notes, "Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him." Samuel is living for years in the sanctuary, having direct contact with the high priest, serving the Lord and even sleeping in the temple, but he does not know the Lord. How is this possible? One can learn many things about God, but still not know Him. Yes, it is also possible to be in the temple and not have any personal relationship with God. Job also, toward the end of the book, says to God, "I had heard you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you" (Job 42:5). It is one thing to know things about God and another, very different from the first, to "know the Lord." If Job came to know God through suffering and rebellion, Samuel needed to hear God’s voice calling him more than once. He had to hear three times, which means repeatedly, and he also needed to be told what to say by Eli. Samuel obeys and repeats the words suggested to him by the priest: "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." He then received God’s revelation. It was difficult. God condemned the priestly line of Eli and his sons. Samuel’s fear, then, to relate to Eli what the Lord had told him is understandable. Although the sins were of the children and not of Eli, he too has to pay and everything will be taken away from him. Upon hearing the message, however, Eli seems a model of piety and docility (v. 18). In the terrible moment of decision, Samuel and Eli are together in their obedience, as they had never been before. Both now accept God’s verdict. For Samuel, it offers power and authority whereas for Eli only pain and humiliation. For both, the power of God’s will is undisputed. Eli had raised Samuel to be obedient. Now, both stand together to face God’s severe and powerful will. Not the pronouncement of Eli’s end, but the investiture of Samuel, is at the centre of this scene. From that moment, the Word of God is no longer scarce. The Lord had selected Samuel to be a prophet and Samuel, for his part, "let none of his (of the Lord’s) words fall to the ground." This exhortation is to all believers so that they, like Samuel, may not let any words received from the Lord fall to the ground.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets