During the celebration of the Oscar awards ceremony, the most anticipated moment is not the gawking at the somewhat “de rigeur” dresses the actresses are wearing, but, rather, the moment that the names of the winners are called. “Is my name going to be called…or not?”
The first reading for for the second Sunday in Ordinary Time (I Samuel 3:3-19) and the Gospel (John 1:35-42) speak to us in terms of names and responses.
In the first reading from the book of Samuel, the boy hears his being name called and thinks it is his mentor Eli the elder. It was late at night. So the boy runs to Eli and tells him that he heard his name called, and went to see what he wanted. Eli said he didn’t call and to go back to sleep.
This call-response event occurred twice again, and finally Eli told Samuel that it was the Lord calling him. The fourth and final time Samuel heard his name called, he responded “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist and two of his disciples saw Jesus walk by and John blurts out, “Look, here is the ‘Lamb of God'” The disciples started to follow Jesus. Andrew, one of the disciples of John, found his brother Simon and told him that they had found the Messiah (=the one sent), and then took him to Jesus.
Jesus sized up Simon and told him, “You are Simon, son of John, from now on you will be called Cephas (=Peter).” What we note in these two readings is the name being called and a response.
In the first reading Samuel hears his name, and when he realizes it is the Lord calling him, he responds, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” In the Gospel, Simon not only hears his name called by Jesus, but also his name is changed to Peter. His response is one of discipleship which we see in the rest of the Gospels.
What does this mean for us? First of all, the Lord is calling each of us by name to be of service to others, for example: justice, compassion, forgiveness, and other virtues of service. It is up to us to recognize Jesus wherever we see him, likely in the poor, sick, homeless, and others in need. The response of Samuel is crucial when our name is called: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” It is only by listening that we can hear the word.
Secondly, as in the Gospel Simon’s name was changed to Cephas (=Peter) which means “rock,” so our name is changed when we are baptized. Because of Baptism, we officially called “disciple of Jesus” which means we continue his work on earth.
The fundamental question in this call-response dynamic seems to be: “Is there anything that is making me too deaf to hear the voice of the Lord?” Attitude? Temptation?
There is no response if I am not certain that I hear the voice of the Lord by asking “Are you talking to me?”