This Sunday the First Reading relates to us the story of the call of Samuel. This is something which most of us are familiar with, most probably because in his vocation story, we see reflected within it our very own. Each story is unique; in the ordinariness of our life we have heard the voice of God inviting us to share His very life, that outpouring of love that holds nothing back of itself, which is none other than holiness. Like the story of the boy Samuel, who was already young as he was, dedicated to the service of the Lord in the Temple, we have heard His voice in the darkness of the night, in the silence of our dreams; in many cases, we may have heard the voice of God calling us to this or that special vocation with our hearts filled with so many noble aspirations to help and make a difference in the world in which we live in. For many, this voice is heard through a personal experience of pain and suffering, either ones own or that of others: by this we may also understand what hearing God calling out our name in the darkness of the night means. But no matter what the circumstance of the call, the story of Samuel also shows to us one very important thing about answering God’s call, and this is very true for any vocation. One cannot answer the Lord’s call faithfully without mature discernment, and one cannot come to discern as he should without the valuable guidance of others, whose ministry it is to discern what God’s will is for them, being at their side. The role of the priest Eli was important in the boy’s reponse to the call. We could be able to perceive the weight of the words with which Samuel responded to the Lord’s invitation: “Speak, for your servant is listening…”, words which find a perfect echo in the words of the Responsorial Psalm: “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will!” Who cannot fail to appreciate the generosity and the youthful courage that are found in these words? And yet, without the wise advice and discernment of the elder Eli, Samuel could never had imagined that a greater person than his mentor was calling him.
Our reflection on the Gospel reveals to us that we have a universal call to holiness that is expressed in each of our lives by living our particular vocation faithfully. Sacred Scripture is full of reminding us if this. The people of Israel were to have engraved on their minds and in their hearts the fact they are called to be holy as God is; something that Jesus Christ also admonished his disciples constantly. In his letters the Apostle Paul never tired of reminding the earliest Christians that the will of God was their holiness. We have to be holy, holiness, which according to the Apostle John, is none other than to be full of love, as he expresses in one of his letters. This is a arduous road, characterized by an equally strenuous struggle; one cannot climb to the heights of love alone.
The readings come to remind us the fact that we cannot be our own guides in this journey. This fact leads us to consider the importance of spiritual direction. Spiritual Direction has been a practice that has been present in the Church for a very long time, even from it humble beginnings, where we could see form the lives of the early Christians how they encouraged one another in the struggle to be followers of the Lord. This is a practice that has been adviced and encouraged, especially by the masters of Christian spirituality, such as St. john of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and Christian writers such as John Cassian. Its importance for growth in the spiritual life has been emphasized also by the teaching of the popes, such as Pius XII. To be more precise and ordered, one two-fold consideration we could get from our reflection this Sunday is, aside from the fact that we need to be guided, we cannot act as our own guides in this journey. This comes primarily because many times we do not see the things that we need to consider in ourselves in order to change for the better. This is very much the same as in the case of our need for a mirror, whenever we want to groom ourselves, and ourselves more presentable. A good spiritual director, or companion, is like a good mirror: through his prayer and his advice, he allows us to see what we need to change, to enhance—with the Lord’s grace—those good qualities that need to be enhanced, and to increase in the path of prayer and virtue.
In responding to God’s call, we have to have the humility to admit that we are not sufficient to ourselves, and that we need the grace of God and the aid of brothers and sisters, if we are to advance in the way of virtue. If we are to be true to the admonition of St. Paul in the Second Reading—and that is to live lives according to the will and law of God, one that shuns immorality and is a life in the Spirit of God—then we have to attune ourselves to His voice, which we hear also through the prudent counsel of those whose task and mission is to educate and to guide us on the way to holiness.
The Gospel presents to us the reality that first and foremost, this Master of the Truth is Christ Himself. The task of the director could be likened to that of John the Baptist, who did no more than to point to the Christ and say “Behold the Lamb of God”. Jesus Christ is the true Master who teaches us the words of eternal life. The spiritual life is none else than going to see where the Master lives and staying with Him, listening to his words, living with Him so as to be transformed in Him.
This contact with God, this transformation in Him is made possible with our encounter with the mystery of God made man: the Incarnation is the key to our sharing of God’s life. In the Philippines, this third Sunday of January is the feast of the Holy Child, the Sto. Niño. With the Word made flesh, dwelling among us, we can hear the words of the Master, listening to Him with the humility and trust of a child. In the Opening Prayer of the Mass we have prayed that may we be able to follow Jesus with sincere hearts. Let us make this our prayer, that we may always be faithful to Him, and being faithful means being capable of listening to every word that the Lord speaks out to us.