In the first reading we hear that “Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD.”
Now that doesn’t mean you get to sleep here in church during the homily!
But we do have something in common with Samuel: at one point, we, too, were not familiar with the Lord.
Samuel is called three times, but he does not recognize who is it is.
It is the priest Eli who helps him understand that it is the Lord who is calling.
In the gospel, too, Andrew and an unnamed disciple don’t know Jesus.
It is the prophet John the Baptist who points to the Lord and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
There was even a time when Peter did not know Jesus, and it was his brother the apostle Andrew who brings him to the Messiah.
As we stand at the beginning of another season of Ordinary Time, today’s scripture shows us these three people at the beginning of their relationship with the Lord.
Today, then, is a good day to remember that there was a time in all of our lives when we did not know God, when we did not know Jesus, and it is a day to be grateful for those brothers and sisters who first brought us to the Messiah.
At some point in the life of every Christian, we learned about Jesus from someone who loved us.
Each of us is gathered around the altar here today because someone introduced us to God.
The priest Eli told Samuel about the Lord.
The prophet John the Baptist told Andrew about the Lamb of God.
The apostle Andrew told his brother Peter about the Messiah.
Someone told you and me about Jesus.
If John was writing the Good News of your life, who would take the place of the prophet John the Baptist in telling you, “Behold the Lamb of God”? Or who is your apostle Andrew, bringing you to Jesus for the first time? Who has been the priest Eli in your life, advising you to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”?
In other words, who introduced you to God? Who first told you about Jesus?
For many of us, it was our parents, bringing us to the church for Baptism when we were infants. But that was so long ago we probably don’t remember it.
What is your earliest memory of knowing that Jesus loved you?
Imagine that moment in your life, hearing about Jesus for the first time.
Maybe you can’t pinpoint one particular moment the way Samuel, Andrew, or Peter can. Maybe your introduction to Jesus was more gradual, over the course of your childhood. That’s probably the experience of most people who come to know God.
After all, the reason Samuel was in the temple in the first place was because his mother Hannah had brought him there.
So whether your first experience with God was a single moment in time, or a gradual process locked away somewhere in your memory, the important thing is that it came from people who loved Jesus and who loved you enough to bring you together.
This is how we meet Jesus: through people we trust, through people who care for us and want what’s best for us.
They evangelize us.
Sometimes we might wish that Jesus would speak to us directly, that we could hear his voice or see his face.
But God has chosen a different way.
And as always, God’s way is better.
There’s a bond that forms when you hear about Jesus from people who love you.
When parents share the gospel with their children, for example, or when friends pray with friends, then the Body of Christ is strengthened, the Church is built up.
We become a closer, more interconnected, more loving community.
There’s also a dignity in knowing that God has entrusted us with spreading the Good News to the world.
We received that dignity at our Baptism when we were anointed priest, prophet, and king.
And with that dignity comes a responsibility, the responsibility that Jesus gave to all of his disciples:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
There’s someone in your life right now who trusts you just as much as you trusted the people who first introduced you to Jesus.
There’s someone you love, who loves you, waiting to hear the Good News that only you can give.
Who is it? What is it they need to hear?
We might hesitate, afraid that we don’t know what to say, or how to say it.
God has heard that before. When Moses was called to lead the Israelites he said, “What if they don’t believe me or listen to me? I’m not eloquent.”
When God called the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah said, “I don’t know how to speak, I’m too young.”
But today’s liturgy shows us how simple it really is to evangelize: a little conversation between Eli and Samuel; a brief recognition of Jesus’ presence by John the Baptist to his two disciples; a brief but excited exchange between the two brothers Andrew and Peter.
This is the kind of evangelization Pope Francis writes about in The Joy of the Gospel where he says,
“…there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation….Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” (#127)
In another part of The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes,
“Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” (#120)
Every Christian. Here and now. Daily. That is our challenge. To be Eli, John the Baptist, and Andrew to the people in our lives.
And as Pope Francis concludes,
“What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence.” (#264)
Today we are grateful for all those in our lives who loved Jesus so much, and who loved us so much that they introduced him to us and continue to proclaim him to us.
And today we also recognize the dignity and responsibility we have been given to introduce others to Jesus.
Through our baptism, we have been anointed priest, prophet, and king.
Like the priest Eli, we can help our loved ones recognize God and say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
Like the prophet John the Baptist, we can point to Jesus and say, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
Like the apostle Andrew, we can bring our brothers and sisters to the Messiah.