Listen first

My brother has three children, two girls and a boy. All three are great kids and we were fortunate enough to know them while they were growing up. Allan was the middle child and a very typical boy. He would get into his share of trouble partially because he was the forgotten middle child and partially because he was a boy. That is not to say that he was “bad” or that my brother would pay more attention to him but let’s just say that trouble seemed to follow Allan.

When Allen was about 9 nine years old, they lived somewhere in the Midwest and Tuesday was family night. They would go to the local bowling alley, (I did mention that this was somewhere in the Midwest?) and get pizza, bowl with friends and generally hang out. At this age Allen was fascinated by video games, not that he knew how to play them it is just that they were big, flashy and made a lot of neat sounds. To hear my brother explain it, Allan would play on those machines for hours and never put in a single quarter. He thought that he was a pin ball wizard when I fact he was just watching the demo intro over and over.

One typical Tuesday evening a series of Midwest storms had rolled into the area while they were enjoying family night. My brother, his wife and the girls were at one end of the building and Allan was somewhere at the other end standing in front of a video game. The storm got worse and all of a sudden everything went dark. For a whole two minutes there were no lights, no movements, no sounds. As a matter of fact the first sound that anyone heard was my brother saying AAAAaaaaaaalllannnnnnn! And two seconds later they heard my nephew saying, “I didn’t do it!!!”.

This story always comes to mind when I hear the first reading about Samuel. You see, my nephew was so conditioned by the things that he was expecting to hear that he never heard what was actually being said. It says, in the first reading, that Samuel ministered to the Lord under Eli. Meaning that he was use to having conversations with Eli but had not yet had conversations with God. So, naturally, when he heard someone calling him during the night it must have been Eli.

Just like when my nephew heard my brother calling him it must have meant that he was in trouble.
In one of Stephen Covey’s books he writes that “it is critical that we Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. He goes on to say that “seeking real understanding affirms the other person and what they have to say”. In the reading three times Samuel heard God calling without every really listening. Perhaps he was tired, perhaps he was young, but it is clear that he did not understand that God was calling him. For that matter, Eli did not do a good job of listening either.

Here is this young kid that wont let him get a good night’s sleep. He just wanted to get rid of him; I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep”. It took three of these interruptions before Eli “understood”. And what did he tell Samuel to say? “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” That would have been hilarious if my nephew had answered my brother’s call with this …. “Speak Dad, your son is listening!”. Listening, really listening, trying to understand before doing anything else.

When you pair this reading with the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 you have an amazing lesson. “After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a still, small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”

How often are we expecting God to come to us on our terms, in our way, along our timetables. But God is not in our timetables, not in the earthquakes, not in our trials not in our victories, not in the people that we expect, and not even in a power outage in a bowling alley. How often does God come in a still small voice and we totally let Him pass by.

The gospel reading is all about Jesus coming to us on His terms. “Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”

In the first of the responsorial psalms we heard:
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
Blessed the man who makes the LORD his trust;
who turns not to idolatry
or to those who stray after falsehood.
Blessed the man who seeks first to listen, then to understand, to do the will of God.
“Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

MK 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn,
he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons
throughout the whole of Galilee.

January 12, 2022

January 12, 2022

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