The United States approaches an important moment, the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president of the United States. This is a moment to pray for these leaders to succeed in their commitment to governing on behalf of all Americans and working to heal a damaged and divided nation. At this juncture, today’s readings offer wisdom on the importance of new beginnings and answering a call to service.
‘Here I am.’ (1 Sm 3:4, 6, 8)
Are you open to answering God’s call?
What do you feel called to do?
What do you hope to see in the new administration?
In the first reading, we hear the calling of Samuel to be a prophet. Samuel served in ministry under the priest Eli, and in the Temple Samuel hears God call him by name. Samuel responds “Hineni,” which is often translated from Hebrew as “Here I am.” God calls Samuel three times, and to each call Samuel answers Hineni, “Here I am.” Samuel’s response is not simply saying that he is present. Hineni frequently occurs as an answer to divine instructions or callings. It can acknowledge being in the divine presence, and it reveals an openness to hear and respond to God’s call.
Samuel’s prophetic-call story is about God’s selection and Samuel’s willingness to accept. While most of us will likely not hear God calling us by name, we should be attentive to the world and, like Samuel, be open to answering our calling.
In today’s Gospel from John, Jesus is early in his ministry. After his baptism, Jesus’ next act is to call followers. In John’s account, Jesus is followed by two of John the Baptist’s disciples. Andrew invites his brother Simon to meet Jesus and affirms him as Messiah. When Simon arrives, Jesus says, “You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). For Peter, being addressed with a different name represents a new beginning and a preview of his role in building upon Jesus’ ministry. The etymology of the names is connected to the words kepha in Aramaic and petra in Greek, both meaning “rock.”
The year 2020 has been difficult in countless ways; and January 2021 is, we hope, the beginning of a less tumultuous period. In addition to the new calendar year, last week we began Ordinary Time, and this month ushers in both a new Congress and a new administration. We should take this moment to be thankful for these fresh starts, reflect on the past and look forward to opportunities to arise in the future.
In today’s readings, both Samuel and Peter serve as models for how to react to new beginnings and calls to serve: Be open. We must be open in mind and heart to what God is calling us to do. Samuel is called to serve as a prophet, a difficult but meaningful role, as he must encourage and criticize people in order to help them live righteously. Likewise, the disciples Jesus calls are open to the unknown opportunities and obstacles of associating with Jesus. These first followers ultimately became leaders in the service of the early Christian community. Let us be inspired by these biblical examples and approach the future with openness and willingness to serve.