By FATHER DONALD DILGER
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 10; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42
This Sunday’s first reading takes us back to the time of the Israelite Judges, 1200-1020 B.C.
They did some judging as judging is understood today, but they were also military leaders when needed. One of the more important Judges was Deborah, about 1150 B.C. She was judge, poet, prophetess, and military leader. The last of the Judges was Samuel, sometime between 1050-1020. He eventually anointed Saul as the first King of Israel. From then on, kings were the usual rulers of the Israelites. The call of Samuel to his ministry is the subject of today’s reading. He was still a boy at the time and was attached to the shrine of the Ark of the Covenant at Shiloh in the central part of Israelite territory. He was under the guardianship of the old priest Eli. The story of Samuel’s conception and birth is found in 1 Samuel 1:19-20. His mother Hannah had been unable to conceive. The blessing of the priest Eli brought about the conception of Samuel by his parents Elkanah and Hannah. In her happiness at having a child, Hannah dedicated the boy to God. After weaning him, she left him at Shiloh with Eli, the priest, and his family. She joyfully celebrated with a hymn, which centuries later was the model for Mary’s hymn in Luke 1:46-55.
As the boy Samuel was asleep, he was awakened by a voice calling him. It was the Lord calling. Samuel thought Eli had called him. Eli denied it and told him to go back to sleep. The call came a second time. Again Samuel went to Eli thinking the priest had called him. He did not. The call came a third time. He reported again to Eli, who then knew that it was the Lord calling the boy. Eli instructed him to answer the call, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” He went back to sleep. The Lord called a fourth time. Samuel answered as instructed. The Lord had a frightening message for him about the future violent death of Eli and his sons. Samuel dutifully reported this to Eli. The story of the call of Samuel closes with this sentence, “Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect. The reason for the selection of this reading for this Sunday: the gospel reading is the call of Jesus’ first disciples.
Psalm 40 picks up the theme of the Lord calling and the Psalmist’s answer. Parts of this Response Psalm sound like a rewriting of Samuel’s call. “I have waited, waited for the Lord. He stooped toward me and heard my cry. He put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God.” The people’s response, “Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will,” echoes the response of the boy Samuel to God’s call in the first reading. The second verse of today’s psalm can be startling. “Sacrifice and offerings you did not want, but (wanted) ears open to obedience . . . .” Downplay of the sacrificial system is a theme found in the prophets Amos 5:21-25, Isaiah 1:11, Micah 6:6-8, Jeremiah 6:20. This theme is best summarized in Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:13, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’.” Jesus is quoting Hosea 6:6.
In the second reading, Paul had to deal with a problem among his new Christians in Corinth. Just before our reading begins, Paul assembled a list of vices which we can assume were prevalent at Corinth. Among those vices were various kinds of sexual immorality. He comments in today’s reading, “The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord.” The body is destined for the resurrection in imitation of Jesus’ resurrection. Paul reminds readers that their bodies are members of Christ, joined to him in the Holy Spirit. One does not take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute. Very blunt language of a pastor to his flock! He notes that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and were purchased by a price, the blood of Jesus.
In the gospel John the Baptizer is hanging out with two of his disciples. It should not surprise us that John’s popularity drew a large following, just like Jesus would. Some of John’s disciples became disciples of Jesus. Jesus walks by. The Baptizer says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Jesus as Lamb is common to New Testament literature attributed to John the apostle. The same metaphor is found in Acts 8:32 and in 1 Peter 1:19. Two questions: how did the Baptizer understand this title and how did the author of the gospel understand it? Did Jesus have a lamblike personality, a gentleness? Not always! The influence of the fourth Servant Song, Isaiah 53:7 may be seen here. It speaks of a Servant of the Lord who was led “like a lamb to the slaughter . . . .” That was a metaphor for the Servant who in the same poem “makes himself an offering (atonement) for sin.” At the time of Jesus the slaying of the Passover Lamb had characteristics of a sacrifice of atonement. At least in Jerusalem it was done in the temple by the priests. We know that the author of John’s gospel thought of Jesus as the Passover Lamb, his legs unbroken on the cross. The author quotes from Exodus 12:46 a rule for preparing the Passover Lamb, “Not a bone of him shall be broken.” Besides that, Jesus is killed during Passover week.
As Jesus walks by, he sees two of John’s disciples standing with John, and says to them, “What are you looking for?” They respond, “Where are you staying?” Jesus invites them — the call, the vocation, “Come and see.” They left John and followed Jesus. Next they did what genuine disciples do — bring others to Jesus. One of these first two followers of Jesus was Andrew. He went after his own brother Simon, and announced, “We have found the Messiah (the Christ).” Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus’ more than human characteristics come into play. He identifies Simon without introduction, and says, “You are Simon, son of John,” (Johnson). He continues, “You will be called Cephas. Jesus was speaking Aramaic. The meaning of the name Cephas: Rock. The gospel was written for Greek speakers, so the author explains the name Cephas, translating it into Greek, Petros, the masculine form of the Greek word for rock, petra. And that explains according to this gospel at least how Simon Johnson became Simon Peter.