Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time (January 13th, 2016)

Remember that this week the Church will present excerpts from the Old Testament Book of Samuel as the first reading for daily Mass. The Book of Samuel is the story of how the Israelite tribes were united and became a mighty kingdom. This great story starts with the story of a man of authority and power named Samuel.

Yesterday, we learned that Samuel was the only child of a woman named Hannah and her husband Elkanah. Hannah and Elkanah were faithful in their practice of the Israelite religion, and since Hannah understood her son Samuel to be a gift from God, she dedicated her son to service to God, leaving him when he was a young boy in the care of the Israelite priests who ministered at the Lord’s sanctuary in the city of Shiloh.

Today, young Samuel is called by God and given his mission. In other words, God reveals to Samuel the purpose of his life and what he must do for this purpose to be fulfilled. As I mentioned yesterday, no one comes into this world as an accident or is unnecessary and no one is expendable. God sends us into this world with a purpose, and our life is given meaning when we fulfill our God-given purpose.

Samuel’s purpose would prove to be historically significant. God worked through Samuel to achieve great and mighty deeds that would ultimately lead to the Israelites becoming a united kingdom and it would Samuel who would anoint David as the king of the Israelites, and as we know, it is from the family of David that Christ the Lord will reveal himself to the world.

Perhaps our purpose seems less dramatic than that of Samuel, but no one who accomplishes God’s purpose for their life accomplishes something insignificant. The world is changed for the better, not by those who command nations, or those who accumulate wealth, or those who achieve fame and celebrity, but by those who in the immediacy of the circumstances of their lives honor God and fulfill the demand of love.

Being great or powerful or rich or famous, all mean nothing and accomplish nothing of lasting importance if in our pursuit or attainment of these things we fail to keep God’s commandments, or harm others, or live selfishly or fail to fulfill the demand of love.

For the disciple of the Lord Jesus, the highest priority and value is not determined by worldly standards of success, but our willingness to achieve our life’s purpose through acts of faith, hope and love.

In the Gospel for yesterday, Christ the Lord liberated a man who had been overtaken by dark and malevolent powers. This testimony to Christ’s power indicated that the power of evil is no match for the power of God in Christ. Christ has come to liberate us from our fear and the oppressive powers of sin, death and the devil.

Today, Christ the Lord acts to liberate Simon’s mother in law from a fever that has immobilized her, frustrating her ability to serve Christ and his mission.

Freed from this fever, she is ready, willing and able to serve.

We can interpret this story spiritually, understanding that while we might not be afflicted by an actual fever, there is likely in all of us an unwillingness to serve Christ- his invitation to serve is met by refusal, qualification, equivocation. Or we are initially filled with enthusiasm for mission, but faced with its reality, we become anxious, and that anxiety leads to indolence, rather than to action. Or maybe we want to serve, but only on our terms and if these terms are not met, we become frustrated and combative.

Christ the Lord can liberate us from these hindrances to mission, but we must let him. Are we willing to let him? Or do we prefer the infirmity of our refusals rather than the vigorous, life-giving mission to serve?

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