In both the first reading and the gospel today, we are invited to hear and respond to God’s call. In the first reading, little Samuel heard his name called and eagerly announced, “Here I am!” In our gospel, John the Baptist sent two of his followers to Jesus. They asked him: “Where do you live?” Jesus responded: “Come and See.” They followed, and thus began their life as disciples of Jesus.
Whenever I hear the story of the call of Samuel, I think of Leung Ngan Fung, a Deaf friend of mine in Macau. When I first went to Macau to begin a ministry with the Deaf, there were only two Deaf Catholics, so I started an RCIA program for Deaf people who were interested in learning about our faith. On the first day of class, I asked each person why they wanted to learn about the Catholic faith. Leung Ngan Fung’s fiancé was Catholic, so I assumed that she came because of her future husband. However, to my surprise, she responded: “I had a dream, and I saw Jesus. He said: ‘Come!’” So, she said: “Here I am.” Her faith continued to grow, and a year later she was baptized, and a few months after that she was married.
My own response to God’s call wasn’t that immediate. Truth be told, ever since I was very young, something inside me felt a call to be a missionary, but I had other plans, so my response was always, “No, thank you!” But this call to go and serve the poor in a different country kept coming up in my heart over and over. Finally, I decided to join the Peace Corps. I thought that was a good compromise and hoped it would end that “ridiculous” idea of being a missionary. Well, it didn’t work. The call only got stronger! So, after finishing my time in the Peace Corps, I finally decided to join Maryknoll and see what would happen.
I’ll never forget the first retreat day we had. The readings we reflected on were the same as today’s Gospel reading. In the gospel passage, Jesus noticed the two men following him and asked them what they were looking for. As they asked Jesus: “Where do you live?” I recognized the longing in my heart to know where Jesus lives and heard Him call to me: “Come and see!” At that moment, something moved within me, and I felt Jesus personally inviting me on a journey that would take me into the lives of the poor and vulnerable to find where He lives. For the first time, I was able to say with deep conviction, “Here I am.” After over 50 years as a Maryknoll Sister, my “Yes!” has been repeated many times as God’s persistent “Come and see” call has taken me to Hong Kong, Macau and Guatemala, and in each place, I continued to discover where Jesus lives, and in those encounters the mutuality of mission…the mutuality of the flow of Divine Love…has been both gift and challenge.
When we reflect on the situations in our world today, we can often feel overwhelmed and discouraged. The disastrous effect of climate change, the pain of the thousands of displaced people from war and violence can make us feel helpless and wonder: “Where are you, Jesus?” In the midst of our doubts, Jesus continues to call us onward, each in our own way, to respond to the cries of the poor, knowing that it is there in the pain of the world that Jesus lives. Then, trusting in Jesus’ faithful Presence, we recognize that we are not alone and find the courage to, like Samuel, trustingly respond: “Here I am!” Then step by step God’s Love will guide us into each new adventure of discipleship.
Image of Sister Arlene Trant and her Deaf and hearing volunteers interpreting the Mass at St.Joseph the Worker parish in Macau courtesy of the author.