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Reflections for Sunday, Jan. 14

Readings for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:

1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19
Palms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20
 John 1:35-42

The new year is a good time to begin anew in our spiritual lives. Along with resolutions to improve our health, habits and relationships, a renewed commitment to prayer gives direction to our inmost longings for renewal and regeneration.

Prayer is a dialogue with God that responds to God who first thirsts for us, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We speak to God in the prayers of the liturgy and the psalms, in familiar devotions of the Church, and with words that flow spontaneously from the heart. And while speaking to God is a necessary dimension of Christian prayer, listening is even more fundamental. We cultivate a heart of listening to hear God call each one of us by name. The more we listen, the more we hear God’s voice.

When we open to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we attune ourselves to God’s voice and welcome his holy word as wisdom for daily life.

Samuel had never heard God’s voice until he heard the Lord call him by name. The young boy mistakenly thought it was Eli, the temple priest. Three times the Lord called to Samuel, and three times Samuel ran to Eli’s side. Eventually Eli, a wise and prayerful man himself, understood what was happening to Samuel. So, he said to the youth, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

Eli taught Samuel the way of prayer. He guided Samuel to recognize God’s voice calling to him as a gift of faith. In the same way, the Church teaches us how to pray, opening our hearts and minds to hear God call us by name with his eternal word of love and mercy.

This openness to God’s voice continues in the Responsorial Psalm as we join in the psalmist’s prayer - “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.” Now it is the psalmist who teaches how to pray with a listening heart, attentive to God’s word and will.

In the Gospel, Jesus encounters Peter and Andrew, who accept the call to discipleship after they hear the witness of John the Baptist. We hear that John was standing with the two disciples, and as Jesus walked by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” John was a missionary disciple of Jesus, preparing hearts to attend to the presence of God in their midst. Peter and Andrew heard the message of John and followed Jesus.

Discipleship flows from listening to the voice of God.

When John proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God, the disciples responded in faith and discipleship. Their example is given to us today as we hear God’s word. Will we respond in faith and discipleship as we hear God call us by name – as we pray in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”
Question: In this new year how can I cultivate a heart that listens to the word of God?

Jem Sullivan holds a doctorate in religious education and is an associate professor of Catechetics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.