“You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, but an open ear. You do not ask for holocaust and victim. Instead, here am I.” This week’s Responsorial Psalm, reflecting on the call of the young Samuel, describes the disposition of mind and heart that enables the discernment of God’s purpose in our lives. Before sacrifice and offering the psalmist brought an open ear, the humility that is sensitive to God’s prompting. Before the demonstration of holocaust and victim, he first surrendered his life to the will of God: “Here am I.”
The narrative of Samuel’s call is a perfect expression of these qualities. As Samuel passed the night in the sanctuary he was disturbed three times by the calling of his name. Presuming that the call came from his master Eli, his response was to present himself to Eli. On each occasion he was dismissed. “I did not call you, my son, go back and lie down.”
Only with persistence, and prompted by Eli, was Samuel enabled to understand the meaning of his experience. The Lord enabled him both to hear and respond to his calling. “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
Throughout life our hearts prompt us in various directions. Such thoughts are frequently dismissed as the reverie of the moment. Sometimes, like the calling of Samuel’s name, these promptings are repeated. They should not be dismissed. With the kind of prayer that offers an open ear, we should, like Samuel, seek to discern God’s purpose in this constant prompting. Is God calling us to adopt a particular way of life or, equally important, to withdraw from certain aspects of our present lifestyle?
Only with the psalmist’s surrender to God can we understand the purpose of such promptings. “You do not ask for holocaust or victim. Instead, here am I.”
The first encounter between Jesus and the disciples of John the Baptist illustrates further the dynamic of discernment in the life of the believer. The narrative begins with John the Baptist identifying Jesus to his disciples as the promised saviour. “Look, there is the Lamb of God.”
This identification of Jesus became a dialogue. Jesus, seeing the Baptist’s disciples, asked an open question: “What do you want?”
Our own discernment of the Lord’s purpose must begin with the same question. Life presents us with bewildering and conflicting possibilities. The first step in discernment must be, in the presence of God, to ask ourselves what we really want.
The disciples’ response to the question of Jesus was equally significant. They asked: “Rabbi, where do you live?” The unfolding of John’s Gospel reveals Jesus as the one who has come from the Father, who lives and acts in the presence of the Father, who prepares a place for us in his Father’s house.
Jesus invited John’s disciples “to come and see”, to understand and share the depths of a love shared with the Father. This, ultimately, is the vocation of every Christian, to come and see, to make our dwelling with the Father and the Son. Discernment demands choices on our part. We can live in the world of self and sin, or, following the invitation of Jesus, we can choose another dwelling place.
“I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me, so that where I am you may be too.”