This is Samuel’s season. On January 13, Monday of the second week of the year, the church began reading First Samuel at its daily liturgies. With the exception of the Sundays and the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul all the first readings at weekday Masses until the end of January are taken from First and Second Samuel.
Samuel is a cardinal figure in the transition from the time of the Hebrew judges to the beginning of the kingship. Samuel followed the Lord’s instruction in selecting and anointing both King Saul and King David. Accord to the rabbis, Samuel was the last of the judges and the first major prophet. As a judge Samuel was a mighty leader in the battles against the enemies of his people.
His birth was special. His mother, Hannah, was childless until she pleaded and asked God for a son at the shrine of Shiloh. Because the Lord heard her prayer, she and her husband Elkanah gave their infant son the name Samuel, which means “God has heard.” Hannah promised that she would offer the child to God’s service at Shiloh (1Sam 1:9-20).
It was there in the shrine at Shiloh that God called Samuel into a special service. Three times Samuel was awakened by someone calling his name. Each time he ran to the Eli the priest who realized that the Lord was calling Samuel and told him how to respond to God’s call (1Sam 3:1-20).
Samuel grew to become a man dedicated to God, first as a judge who led this people to victory and liberation from Phillistine oppression (1 Sam 4:1-11), then as a prophetic voice calling kings and holding them accountable to God for their sins of disobedience. Samuel is described as a prophet based in Shiloh who travelled about calling his people to fidelity to the covenant to true worship of the one God.
The two books of Samuel are interesting and inspiring, as long as they are seen in the context of the time (around 1,000 BCE) and as part of the long history of the Hebrew people. Like Moses, Samuel received messages and orders directly from the Lord God. He played a prominent role as a judge, military leader and prophet. That is why Samuel is held in high esteem by Jews, Moslems and Christians.
We have a lot to learn from Samuel’s role in the historical development of our faith. Above all, Samuel lived faithfully committed to God’s service.
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