Sunday Sermon for January 14, 2024, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: 1 Sam 3:3b-10, 19; 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20; Jn 1:35-42

In the readings today, we hear about the way God called several people to His service.  In the first reading, we hear about the boy Samuel who was serving the elderly priest, Eli, in the temple at Shiloh.  Samuel was the son conceived somewhat miraculously after his mother, Hannah, who was thought to be barren, prayed for a son, promising God that if she conceived, she would bring the child to the temple after he was weaned and give him to the Lord.  So, Samuel was consecrated to God from the beginning of his life.

Clearly, Samuel had a spiritual yearning for the Lord.  He slept, not in a room near the temple, but in the temple itself, near the Ark of the Covenant.  Samuel wanted to be as near to the Lord as he could be.  We must also note that this desire was not because Samuel was receiving a lot of consolations since we are told that Samuel was not yet familiar with the Lord.  Rather, Samuel believed in the Lord without doubt, and he put that faith into practice by serving the Lord without seeking favors for himself or anything selfish.

Samuel showed his love for the Lord in his actions.  Nothing in the Scriptures suggests he was wanting or seeking any kind of spiritual experience.  Rather, he was there to love and serve the Lord without seeking anything in return.  God will never be outdone in generosity.  Seeing the love of Samuel, God chose to call him to be a Prophet.  That call is described in the first reading.  Eli’s advice to Samuel is also excellent for us and helps to provide the right disposition for us in our relationship with the Lord: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

In the Gospel reading from St. John we hear about the first disciples of our Lord, who were later chosen to become His Apostles.  John and Andrew are clearly seeking something, but it is not consolations or anything selfish.  Rather, they are seeking the Messiah.  When Andrew is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, he tells his brother, Simon, and brings him to Jesus.

It is interesting that the very first thing Jesus says to Simon has to do with changing his name to Peter, the rock.  St. John does not tell us that Simon was introduced to Jesus, so perhaps the fact that Jesus knew his name was enough proof for Simon to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and accept, without hesitation, the changing of his name to Peter.  This change in name suggests a change in Peter’s life.  The others who were called to be Apostles also had their lives changed by being with Jesus, but only Peter had his name changed.  Right from the start Jesus knew that Peter would be the man to lead the Church at its inception.

Most of us do not have things pointed out to us as clearly as John and Andrew and Peter.  Most of us do not hear our Lord saying “Follow Me” as some of the other Apostles did.  Maybe we are a little closer to what Samuel experienced, but even there we do not normally hear anything as clearly as Samuel did.  Nonetheless, each of us is called by God both in a general way and in very particular ways.  We are all called to follow our Lord and we are all called to do His holy will. 

Are we truly seeking Jesus?  Are we serious about wanting to do His will?  Can we honestly say, “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening?”  We may not hear anything audibly and we may not be given any extraordinary signs, but St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that our bodies are members of Christ and the temples of the Holy Spirit Who is within us.  God speaks silently within us.  After reminding us that the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, St. Paul adds the statement “you are not your own.”

God purchased us to be His own with the Blood of Jesus.  This means each of us has been called, each of us has been chosen.  Now we must make our choice.  God’s choice was not passive or settling for something He did not want.  No, He actively chose us and paid the ultimate price for the redemption of our souls.  He is not asking anything from us by way of repayment because His choice was one of pure charity.  For this reason, His choice needs to be freely accepted by us and our response must also be a free act of charity.  He has chosen you; He is calling you.  Seek Him, listen to His voice, and respond to Him with love.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit