“Speak, O Lord…”
Twenty-one years ago, I had to come up with a scripture verse for my ordination card, and I chose the verse from today’s first reading: “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.” The young man, Samuel, has heard the Lord calling, “Samuel, Samuel,” and he speaks back to God. Samuel, for the first time in his life, realizes that God is a real person. He commands the Lord, using the imperative voice, “Speak.” And yet he acknowledges that it is the “Lord” that he is speaking with, that he is the Lord’s servant, and that servant is listening. It beautifully describes his personal relationship with God. And so I put it on my ordination cards, hoping it would also describe my relationship with God as a priest.
Friendships transform us
Until I was about 13, God was not real for me, and I had no personal relationship with him. Let’s look more closely at the story from 1st Samuel: “at that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord.” Samuel was not friends with God yet—didn’t talk with Him. Samuel needs a father figure, a mentor, to help him develop a relationship with God. So he goes to the priest Eli, three times, actually, and finally Eli “realizes it was the Lord calling the youth.” So Eli gives him the words with which anyone can initiate a personal relationship with God: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And from that moment, Samuel and the Lord become fast friends. We often do not know how to recognize God in our lives. We need a friend, perhaps a father or mother, to help us—that’s why reading the lives of the saints, or going to confession to a priest, or speaking about your spiritual life to your parents, can be so helpful. I can remember one friendship in particular that opened my eyes to God’s presence when I was just 10 years old.
What does a personal friendship do for you? It changes you. If it is a good friendship, you begin to take on the goodness of your friend. You begin to love the things he or she loves, to adopt the good habits of that friend. You begin to look at the world through his or her beautiful eyes.
Jesus makes friends with Simon
In the Gospel, Jesus looks at a man named Simon (his brother Andrew had brought him to meet Jesus). Christ looks at Simon, I mean, looks him straight in the eyes, and says, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Kephas” (which means Peter, or Rocky). Jesus says, in other words, I know you Simon. I know you, and I like you. I want to be your friend, and good friends change each other for the better. So I am going to change you—going to change your name for starters. I’m going to call you Rocky, because on this rock I will build my Church. Jesus Christ wants to be your friend. He wants to be with you, and when he does, you will change. His friendship will transform you. But we must seek that friendship, that transformation. We must seek a relationship with Christ, both through prayer and a real effort to follow his teachings.
Glorify God in your body
Let me say a few words about our powerful second reading, from 1st Corinthians. It addresses one of Christ’s teachings that we find hardest to follow: sexual purity. Brothers, says Saint Paul, your bodies are not your own—they belong to God, so glorify God in your bodies. We live in the aftermath of the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s. One of the most important books justifying that revolution was called “Our Bodies Ourselves,” published in 1971. The book claimed that since we own our own bodies, we can do whatever we want with them. Along with this kind of sexual immaturity came unplanned pregnancies, and so we had to legalize abortion to take care of those pregnancies, which we did in 1973. The mantra used to justify the killing of unborn children was usually “it is my body and I’ll do what I want with it.”
Realize that this claim is absolutely contrary to Jesus’ teaching. Even if the unborn child were just a part of the mother’s body (which it isn’t), all our bodies belong to God, not to us. We are stewards, not owners, of our bodies. They are sacred, and they are temples of God’s Holy Spirit. That’s why 40,000 of us will be marching in San Francisco this coming Saturday, to speak truth and reason to the irrational culture of death spawned by the so-called Sexual Revolution. Everybody’s body is a gift of God. It is not for immorality, but for God’s glory. “So glorify God in your bodies.”