Monday, First Week in Ordinary Time

Today’s Scripture Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-8, Psalm 116:12-19, Mark 1:14-20

The challenge with the reading from Samuel is that it is a small first segment of the story of Samuel. We don’t have any of the details from the rest of the story which are usually the focus of what’s important. It is, however, a good exercise in staying with the scripture piece we have instead of importing what we already know from outside this part of the sacred text. I have always thought that it’s valuable to stick with the given text because it forces us to pay attention to little things we might not notice otherwise. It’s too easy to rush on to well-known details that supply a point we’ve all heard before instead of listening closely enough to discover something new for ourselves. I just think God has things for us in every little nook and cranny of life or text but it takes time and real attention to discover it.

What I notice about these first lines in 1 Samuel is that even though Hannah is barren and therefore the subject of ridicule from others, her husband is making open extra efforts to tell her she is special to him. He’s breaking the social attitudes of the time. He loves her for who she is and not because she might give him many sons with which to build his influence and posterity. There are no details here about why he likes her. He just prefers her over the other wife who has given him children. This is exactly the opposite of what someone would expect at the time.

So now looking at Mark’s Gospel I think I see another example of “no good reason” for choosing someone. Jesus having announced that the Kingdom of God is at hand has begun to collect disciples. He’s choosing them. This is exactly opposite of the way rabbis or teachers at the time collected students. Students sought out a teacher. Teachers didn’t go ask for students. What’s more, for me, there’s no interview process here. No culling for the best talent. How many, even really good fisherman, would have the skill set to “fish for people?” I think this is a case of someone who simply likes another person. In this case, at first sight, these guys appealed to Jesus. Again no details about why, he simply chooses them.

Often the conversation about this passage revolves around the fisherman immediately dropping a secure profession and going off to follow Jesus. In this case I think it’s very interesting that Jesus like Elkanah, the husband in 1 Samuel, simply prefers or likes these people. Jesus offers them something he expects to be life changing. He will show them how to do something new, Mark says, “I will make you fishers of men.” These men, who just happened to be there, have been chosen and I think that’s significant even for us today.

I think this story is exactly the pattern that we experience in recognizing God in our lives. God offers us something right in the midst of whatever we happen to be doing. I don’t think this is necessarily a call to ministerial service or a call to change professions. I think it is a message to every single one us that says: God prefers, loves and wants to favor us. No resume required. God’s out to collect people for his Kingdom. Like Jesus who simply, “walked a little further” and found the next two fisherman. God keeps asking people who are right there even if we are socially unacceptable like Hannah or ill equipped for what’s next like the fishermen.

The only problem is, we’re often the ones who don’t believe we are lovable or worthy of being favored. Hannah was offered a double portion of the food but refused to eat. Her husband begs her but she refuses. Are we willing to respond? Are there attitudes we have to drop or behaviors we need to stop doing to accept what is being offered? Are there things we want to change but haven’t felt it was possible? Perhaps we have to recognize the people or situations that are trying to show us something good. The Psalm today talks about thanking God for all the good things God has done. Like the Psalmist we must be willing to “take up” the “cup of salvation.” Are we paying enough attention to discover how this cup is being offered?

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