When I was a small boy my father usually read to me from a story book at bed time, before I said my night time prayers and went to sleep. When my grandmother was visiting, usually once or twice a year, she would tell me a Bible story. One of the earliest of those that I remember was the story of the boy Samuel in the Temple that we heard as today’s first reading.
I was too young to understand why Samuel was sleeping in the Temple, but I understood enough to know that he was there learning to serve God.
Some of you have been here this week for your retreat before your ordination. You have listened to God’s call. You are at the next stage of answering it. When you have been ordained and have begun your ministry you are still only at the beginning. Each of us needs to continue listening to God as he calls us on to the many forms of ministry that we may encounter in our lives. This is important. Keep on listening!
But listening for God’s call is not enough. We listen, and we learn. Then, if we have understood where and how God is calling us, we act upon it. Acting upon it we need spiritual nourishment to sustain us in the ministry to which God has called each of us. You who are about to embark on your ministry will have learned, I hope, something of how to find the spiritual nourishment that each one needs for sustenance.
For most of us spiritual nourishment is found in the Holy Scriptures, in prayer and the sacraments, and finally by putting what we have learned into practice, by doing ministry. I learned this doing spiritual direction.
Feeling energy when I hadn’t expect it, I realized how true Jesus’ words to his disciples were when they found him at Jacob’s Well, after his dialogue with the Samaritan woman. When the disciples offered Jesus food they had brought for him he replied, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” (Jn 4:34)
Ministry also depends on discernment, the right time and place, and on discretion. The boy Samuel did not immediately run to tell Eli what God had told him. He waited until Eli asked him, the next morning. Eli’s response was, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
(1 Sam. 3:15-18) Think about it!
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