The first reading for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time is from the Book of Samuel:
Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you,” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “You called me.” but Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”
At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, “Speak LORD, for your servant is listening.” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
1 Samuel 3: 3-10, 19; Translation by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
What is God trying to tell us here? As lay people, should we be asking ourselves how many times we let fear, misunderstanding, and prejudice get in the way of hearing the voice of God? Does our sincere desire to provide for and protect our families blind us to the violence that affects the most vulnerable members of our communities? Do we neglect opportunities to quiet the noise around us, to hear the stirrings of our souls? Do we let inertia drag us down, make us feel powerless and hopeless?
As clergy, do we let apprehension box us in? Do we allow our fear of losing yet more church-goers dictate our teaching? Do we avoid speaking sincerely and from the heart because we might offend ? Do we revert to the mundane and the tried and true, never risking, but never really speaking? Are we letting our word be “without effect,” wasting precious opportunities to actually renew the face of the earth?
Are we, like Samuel, asleep? How many times must we be called?