Sunday, January 14, 2024

Between the Stillness & the Storm

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Readings: 1 Samuel 3: 3-10, 19; Psalm 39 (40): 2, 4 , 7-10; 1 Corinthians 6: 13-15, 17-20; John 1: 35-42

Picture: By Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

My dear friends, given a choice, would you prefer to be calm and contented–like the surface of a still pond–or restless and unsettled–like a stormy ocean? Sounds like a silly question, right? Who in their right mind wants to be disturbed? And yet, down through the centuries, people have crossed stormy oceans, just because they had heard and responded to the call of the sea. This close connection between restlessness and call is also what we find in our scriptures today.

It’s perhaps most obvious in the first reading, where the boy Samuel is having a sleepless night. In the stillness of the sanctuary of the Lord, he keeps hearing someone call his name. And since he hasn’t yet learned to recognise God’s voice, the boy wakes the only other person around. The priest, Eli. But, as it turns out, it is God who is disturbing Samuel. And for good reason. God has a message for him to convey. A word of admonishment for Eli and his household (3:13). By enduring the disturbance, Samuel receives God’s call, and grows up to become a prophet of the Lord (3:20).

In the second reading, St Paul unsettles the Christians at Corinth. He shakes them out of their complacency and arrogance (5:2). For Paul has received reports of grave immorality among them. Behaviour even non-believers would find objectionable, but that they have chosen to ignore (5:1-2). In reminding them about the proper use of the physical human body, Paul is really admonishing them for allowing Christ’s spiritual body to suffer harm. By unsettling the Corinthians, Paul is actually calling them to conversion.

In the gospel, when the two disciples of John the Baptist hear him identify Jesus as the lamb of God, it’s as though they are stirred by an inner restlessness. Immediately, they leave their master and go after Jesus. And when they catch up to the Lord, they allow him to unsettle them further, with the question, what do you want?, staying with him the rest of that day. As a result, not only do they become his disciples, they are moved to call others to discipleship.

A sleepless night leading to the birth of a prophet. A stern reminder that’s also a loving nudge toward conversion. A personal encounter resulting in a transfer of discipleship. In each of these instances, experiences of disturbance and restlessness conceal a blessed call to deeper relationship with God. And to properly receive and respond to this call it’s important to be willing to wait upon the Lord. To make space for him to speak. To say, speak, Lord, your servant is listening. But how many of us are able to do this, when we live such crowded lives? When even our children are often driven to exhaustion and burnout? Which brings to mind something a wise person once wrote: If you want to build a ship, don’t just ask people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Also teach them to yearn for the immensity of the sea.

Sisters and brothers, how might the Lord be disturbing the stillness of our ponds, and calling us to follow him across the stormy ocean today?

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