Synopsis 1Sam 2:36-3:10 8/14/2018
Eli was the high priest over Israel. During his tenure, God did not reveal much to the people. Samuel, who was only a boy, served before the Lord under Eli’s direction. Eli was old and had become blind.
Once, late at night, while both Eli and Samuel slept, God called to Samuel. But Samuel had never before heard the Lord speak. For this reason, he mistook the voice for Eli’s voice. So, he rose and reported to Eli, who dismissed him. Samuel made this mistake twice more. Then, Eli realized that God was calling Samuel. So, Eli instructed Samuel how to respond to God’s voice.
Samuel Hears God in the Darkness
In the deep, dark of night at the Tent of Meeting, everyone was asleep. And the lamp of God was about to burn out. And everything was quiet. It wasn’t really peaceful, just no one speaking.
The blind priest heard nothing. But the boy Samuel heard his name being called. Oddly enough, the blind priest knew what to do – even if he, himself, was unable to do it.
And so, Samuel learned to hear the voice of God. He learned to hear Him speaking. And he would never forget. He would never forget the voice. And, he would never forget how he heard it.
Listening to God in the Darkness
It is in the darkness and stillness that we become candidates to hear God. Yes, God’s is a still small voice. But mostly the problem is a really dense ear.
“Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear,* slow to speak, slow to wrath” James 1:19
Synopsis 1Sam 2:28-35 8/13/2018
A man of God approached Eli with a prophecy from God concerning his family’s ministry. He recounted the history of God’s generosity to Eli’s family. Through this man, God reminded Eli of the special benefits that had been conferred to the house of Aaron.
But, Eli and his sons broke the relationship because of their greed. As a result, his family would be cursed. So, God cursed them with short lives. And, He decreased the size of the family. His present family would die by the sword. And, as a sign of this breach, and the specific truth of the prophecy, Eli’s two sons were prophesied to die on the same day.
I Will Honor Those Who Honor Me
God said, “I will honor those who honor me.” Now, the sons of Eli were priests. And, if they were right in their attitude toward God, they would have feared Him. At the very least, they would have feared his power. And even that fear would have communicated a modicum of honor.
But they didn’t.
On the one hand, honor doesn’t mean to fear. But on the other hand, to not fear God is one way to dishonor Him. So, to act with such blatant evil intent in the overt presence of God was tantamount to denying either God’s moral integrity, His omnipotence or His existence.
Honoring the God Who Created the Other
Honor has a certain connotation. Usually, it’s about celebrating some virtue. So, we honor a great general for his accomplishments. And, we honor a politician for her leadership.
So, honor results from a person’s accomplishments. But the disposition to honor another person can also be motivated by an appreciation simply of who they are. As in, their essence. And so it is said, a person is honorable simply because God has made them. Their being, their essence is enough.
Not everyone will be honored for the actions. And, not every human action deserves to honored. But essence; my essence, your essence, is the creative work of our Father. This part of being a human is always worthy of honor.
Rich and poor have a common bond: the LORD is the maker of them all” Prov 22:2
Synopsis 1Sam 2:19-27 8/13/2018
Hannah and Elkanah continued to travel to the annual feast. Each year, Hannah brought a new garment for Samuel. As they left the feast each year, Eli always made a point of blessing both Hannah and Elkanah for their willingness to dedicate Samuel to the Lord’s work.
Meanwhile, Eli rebuked his sons because of the scandal they had brought to the priesthood. But Eli’s sons disregarded his concerns. Yet, Samuel continued to grow in the esteem of both God and men.
What To Do With The Evil of Ancient Priests?
Eli’s sons brought scandal because of their greed and debauchery. Only Eli was himself a glutton. And so, his sons disregarded his rebukes.
But still, this is God’s Holy Tabernacle. The first sons of Aaron were consumed by God’s holy fire because they brought a “strange fire” before the Lord. They did not carry out the letter of the law concerning ritual sacrifice and were killed for it.
How do I square the quietness of God? These priests acted out of utter, selfish, indifference towards God. Why weren’t they likewise consumed by fire?
What To Do With The Evil of Any Priest
It is said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” The reality of most any profession is that even complex processes can become routine. And, as a matter of routine, they can begin to lose meaning.
It’s creates a silent danger. Who hasn’t had the experience of failing to pay attention while driving? Or, who hasn’t carelessly operated a machine?
But as Christ followers, we operate in the presence of God. At mass. In the Sacrament of the Moment. And even this can become routine. And therein lies the danger. Without care, we come to the place where the presence of God is functionally meaningless.
Because, behind the subtle, nihilist sense of any experience of meaninglessness is the question of whether anything really matters. And when nothing really matters, then there is no cause for restraint.
If you want to save priests from committing the horrendous abuses of our age, then find and revere the presence of God in the Eucharist. Find and revere God in the everyday moments of your life.
Anyone can be weak for a moment, but not everyone will be weak forever. This is one power of the Authentic Community of God
You hate discipline; you cast my words behind you!… When you do these things should I be silent? Do you think that I am like you? I accuse you, I lay out the matter before your eyes.” Psalm 50:21
Synopsis 1Sam 2:9-18 8/12/2018
Hannah left her son with Eli the High Priest at Shiloh. There, Samuel learned to serve before the Lord from Eli. He wore a linen ephod.
Meanwhile, Eli’s son were running the tabernacle sacrificial system. But they had become corrupted. Over time, they had started the practice of demanding overlarge portions for the attending priest. Often, the priests would not even allow for the fatty portions of the sacrifice to be offered on the fire before demanding the priest’s portion.
Adoption Into the Priestly Line
The passage reads, “Samuel, wearing a linen ephod, was serving in the presence of the Lord.” 1Sam 2:18.
The linen ephod was a priest garment. But, Samuel was born into the tribe of Ephraim. Elkanah was an Ephraimite. Yet, from the time of the exodus, only Levites were candidates for priesthood. So, by virtue of his birth, Samuel should not have been serving in a priestly capacity.
Still, Samuel devoted himself to both God and Eli. And so, by virtue of his faithfulness as a young boy, he found himself serving as a priest.
The only context for Samuel being allowed to serve as a priest was the utter delinquency of Eli’s sons. They had become totally indifferent to God despite being in His service. And so, while they extracted disproportionate portions from the Israelites who came offering sacrifices, Samuel was learning how to serve before God under the guidance of Eli the High Priest.
Faithfulness Trumps Birthright In the Economy of God
In proverbs it says, “A wise servant will rule over an unworthy son, and will share the inheritance of the children.” (Prov 17:2) This is Samuel’s story. Hannah gave him to be a servant to Eli. However, because he was so faithful, Eli functionally adopted him so that he could serve as a priest before the Lord.
In God’s economy, faithfulness trumps everything. It still does. Faithfulness trumps everything.
“He said to them in reply, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.'” Luke 8:21
Synopsis 1Sam 1:24-2:8 8/10/2018
Hannah gave birth to a son. And, she named him Samuel. She did not return to Shiloh, or take him to the annual festival until after he was weaned. She then took him and presented him to Eli, along with a significant sacrifice.
As she had promised, she gave the child to Eli. From the time that he was weaned, Samuel remained at the Tent of Meeting with Eli, ministering before the Lord.
Hannah’s Rejoicing in the Lord
Hannah recited a song of thanksgiving. She rejoiced in the way that God seems to take pleasure in lifting up the down-hearted. Her song celebrated the principle of trusting absolutely in the Lord. It’s in this, according to the lessons of her life, that God is to be known.
God Show Up When You Need Him
What does it mean for you and me that God, “makes the tottering put on strength”?
Hannah had done everything in her power to have a child. But it wasn’t enough. So, when she had tried everything else – when she had poured her life into achieving her dream and she couldn’t do it, there was only one thing left to do. She prayed to God.
That’s how it goes. Work until there is nothing left undone. Work hard until there’s nothing more you can do. Then, when every human effort is exhausted, and it’s clear that you can do nothing more to enter into your vision, pray to God. And then, God shows up when you need Him.
So, what’s the takeaway?
Trusting God isn’t simply a matter of praying when I come up short – especially if I haven’t really tried to be successful. The message is: You need to have a dream in order to see God.
If I’m not crying out to God in prayer, it’s not because I don’t need Him. No. The truth of our time is that His abundance is so great that I may not perceive my need. If I’m healthy and fed, with a roof over my head, it’s easy to be complacent. I might even say, “What do I need God for?” It’s easy to wonder why I should want God in my life.
But, if I’m not crying out to God in prayer, then what it really means is that I’m not out there far enough. I’m settling for a level of actual achievement that is nowhere near fulfilling my potential. My dreams have simply not been big enough. Or perhaps better said, I have not let myself dream on God’s scale for my life.
Remember, failure isn’t that, “I tried but didn’t achieve”. Failure is, “I didn’t try”.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” Phil 4:4
Synopsis 1Sam 1:14-23 8/10/2018
Elkanah took his family to the annual feast at Shiloh. Hannah attended with her husband. But, Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, taunted her. It vexed her. So much so, she looked to escape the scene. So, Hannah went by herself to pray at the Tent of Meeting.
She prayed earnestly before the Lord. Silently, she poured out her frustrated desires and implored the Lord to bless her with a child. Eli, the high priest at that time, observed Hannah and mistook her for a drunk. Thus, he admonished her for her bad behavior.
Hannah clarified that she was not drunk. But instead, she was imploring the Lord to help her. So, contented with her answer, Eli blessed Hannah. Then, he prayed the Lord to give her the desire of her heart.
Soon, Hannah conceived and bore a son which they named Samuel.
Being Heard in Faith
Eli blessed her. And with that, Hannah knew that her prayer had been heard and answered. Because of this, she no longer felt the sting of Peninnah’s taunts. And, she became relaxed and entered into the freedom to enjoy the festival with her husband. The Lord had heard her prayer. She knew it. And she knew that He was going to answer it.
Life in the Persistent Miracle
What would it be like if I consistently made great decisions that were exactly in harmony with God’s will. Like a professional athlete, I think I would call this being in the ultimate “zone”. It would be Catholic decision flow. And, it would go from strength to strength. It would be like living in a persistent miracle. More than that, it would be living in a persistent miracle.
And it would be entirely satisfying. I would be free in every way that I could be free. And my freedom would assure that I went deeper into the future possibility of this persistent miracle.
It’s out there. Flow is out there. The persistent miracle is available to you and me.
Synopsis 1Sam 1:4-13 8/9/2018
A man from the tribe of Ephraim had two wives. His name was Elkanah. And, his two wives were named Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had several children. But, Hannah was barren.
Elkanah loved Hannah greatly, even though she was barren. However, Peninnah tormented Hannah by constantly reminding her of her bareness. This caused Hannah enormous distress.
Elkanah was a faithful man. He took his wives and children each year to worship God at the tabernacle which was located at Shiloh. One year, when Hannah was feeling particularly distressed, she approached the tabernacle. There, she prayed to God for a child. As part of the prayer, she vowed to raise the child as a Nazirite, wholly devoted to the Lord from infancy.
Provocation Is the Mother of Prayer
Hannah was in a hard spot. For whatever reason, Elkanah had taken two wives. But because of the importance of progeny, the two wives were automatically rivals competing for Elkanah’s time, attention and favor. Hannah wanted to produce children.
So, despite Elkanah’s best efforts, Hannah could find no consolation or satisfaction in anything else. Her bareness trumped every other good. So, with no other options, she began to pray. She prayed in earnest – like she had never prayed before.
Wondering About Pain in the World – Pain in My World
We wonder about the miserable and difficult stuff of life. At least I do.
I wonder, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”
It’s the title of a book. So, I think I’m not alone.
But my own life experience testifies that I won’t really pray in earnest unless I really need something and I can’t get it anywhere else. It’s only then that I come to terms with the God of healing and resource. It’s my need that brings me to my knees.
Of course, God knows this. He made me. He knows how I work.
So, the question isn’t “why” something happens. The question is “how” am I going to respond. Because the longer I go, the more I’ve come to realize that the only true hope for satisfaction and meaning in life is in my relationship with God. And I need to find that everyday.
“Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Confessions St Augustine
Synopsis Ruth 4:14-1 Sam 1:3 8/8/2018
After Ruth and Boaz married, they conceived. Not long after, Ruth bore a son and named him Obed. And, the boy grew up to become the father of Jesse. And, Jesse was the father of the great king, David.
Naomi was satisfied in her old age because Boaz had redeemed her situation. And, the people of Bethlehem celebrated with her. This was the story of King David’s lineage as it extended through the time of the Judges.
God Redeemed Naomi and Ruth
Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi and Boaz created and entirely different possibility for her life. As a result, she is renown not only for her extraordinary acts of faithfulness and determination, but also because of her legacy.
One effect of her faithfulness and character was the way people thought of her. It was her reputation that drew in Boaz. And her heroism established a legendary standard that challenged her family and her community. It was from this humble but extraordinarily faithful woman that Israel’s greatest kings were to be born.
God And People Love Redemption Stories
Okay, maybe it’s really that I love redemption stories – or that most people love redemption stories. Truth be told, we cling to those stories of overcoming. Our tradition teaches us that no situation is ever beyond hope. And it trains us to believe that God can redeem even the most desperate situations. It teaches us that His power is most available when we remain faithful.
So, whatever you do, don’t give up hope. Everyone experiences a season of hopelessness. And, everyone knows a moment of despair. But the possibility of our lives involves meeting the challenge of this, present, day. It involves seeing God’s hand acting through these, present circumstances.
God is present in this moment. And, He has always been present in this moment. This is the original sacrament. Relating to Him in the present moment is the original possibility of our lives.
“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.” Psalm 46:2
Synopsis Ruth 4:5-13 8/7/2018
Boaz established his status as the nearest relative with the ability to serve as redeemer. And so, he informed the community in front of the city elders of his intent to purchase Naomi and Elimelech’s estate and to redeem Ruth.
Despite that Ruth was from Moab, the community encouraged and supported Boaz’s intentions. Then they blessed him. And so, Boaz married Ruth and Ruth bore him a son.
The Community Blessed Boaz and Ruth
The people of the community showered Boaz and Ruth with blessings. As they did, they invoked the memories of other great women from the history of Israel. They remembered how both Rachel and Leah built up the house of Israel. And how Tamar had built up the line of Judah, even against his own will.
In blessing Ruth, the women of Bethlehem invoked the stories of other strong and determined women. They celebrated women who met great adversity in their lives but who heroically overcame. Ruth had become one more in the line of extraordinary women who loved and served God faithfully.
The Necessary Value of Community Support
Every healthy community needs heroes. Every strong community needs to emphasize and celebrate the lives of the people who best represent the values that keep the community together. Heroes set the standard for right living in the commonwealth.
The Authentic Community is not different. We celebrate the lives of people who have wholly devoted themselves to the core values of the faith community. Those who love God before everything else. And, those who love their neighbors as they love themselves. These are the ones we lift up as examples. They are our heroes.
We call them saints.
“Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” 1 Cor 10:17
Synopsis Ruth 3:14-4:4 8/6/2018
Boaz sent Ruth away from the threshing floor. When he did, he filled her shawl with barley. Ruth returned to Naomi and described the events.
Boaz intended to settle the matter that day. Naomi understood his intentions. So, the two women waited while Boaz went to the city gate.
Don’t Show Up Empty Handed
Boaz was sensitive that Ruth should not return to Naomi empty-handed. He wanted to ensure that she had something tangible to give to her mother-in-law. So he gave Ruth six measures of barley.
The Relational Power of Gifting
People transfer value in three ways:
A true gift is always a work of absolute, authentic, love. Such a gift blesses and facilitates the success of the recipient. There’s no utility in it for the giver. Yet, for the recipient, the value is in more than the gift given. If I receive a true gift, the value is the gift given plus the knowledge that I am truly loved. And when that happens; the natural inclination of the human heart is to pay it forward – to also become a gift giver – to also love.
So, when the only possible return is the joy of participating in someone else’s success, then you’re not far from the possibility of the moment – and the possibility of your life.
“Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.” Luke 14:12