Sunday Scripture Reflection
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 14, 2018
First Reading: 1 Samuel 3: 3B-10, 19
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 40: 2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 6: 13C-15A, 17-20
Gospel: John 1: 35-42
Where are you at? The phrasing of this question irritates grammar purists who would contend that “at” is unnecessary. In this case, “where” sufficiently establishes the question of location. In the past few decades biblical scholarship has further complicated the issue of location by attending to the impact of social location on the interpretation of texts. This attention to factors such as culture, race, ethnicity, gender, dis/ability, socio-economic status, and regionality reinforces the need for “at,” in other words, intentionality about the many dimensions of our embodied selves that shape our reading of biblical texts from “this place.” The fluidity of location is underscored in our cyber age, where one can be @ several places at the same time. How many of us have multiple email addresses, or social media handles, each indicating different, though on occasion, intersecting, networks and degrees of belonging? The lectionary readings for this second Sunday in ordinary time address this question of location, of at/@ in all of its richness.
The expression “Here I am” occurs five times in the narrative of the divine call to Samuel. The first four indicate Samuel’s confusion identifying the source of a summons. Each time Samuel responds to Eli who eventually mentors him into the proper posture before the call of God. Where are you at, Samuel? “Speak, for your servant is listening” (v. 10). Eli’s intervention emphasizes that in the presence of God one must not only be present but prepared, open, and ready to receive a prophetic call. The response to theophany, to divine revelation, is active, engaged listening. The fifth time Samuel replies “Here I am” is not included in the lectionary reading yet it is essential to understanding the dynamic obligations of a prophetic call (v. 15-18). Eli, not God, beckons the youth, inquiring about the content of his divine encounter. A fearful Samuel must speak truth to power; God is not pleased with the house of Eli and they shall be judged accordingly.
This sacred obligation to proclaim the risky news of God’s justice is highlighted in the refrain to the responsorial psalm which combines Samuel’s acclamation of location with this prophetic responsibility: “Here I am Lord. I come to do your will.” To be at/@ “here” implies an embodied location reflected in verses 40: 8-9 “I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me…your law is in my inner being!” This more recent revised translation graphically exemplifies the totality of the expected commitment. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians further accentuates the corporeality of our situated selves, reminding followers of Jesus that we are always located at/@ “a temple of the Holy Spirit “(1 Cor. 6:19) and this should inspire our behavior.
The gospel reading documents a series of location shifts that position at/@ in terms of networks of relationships and allegiances. Two disciples of John, on the strength of the Baptizer’s testimony, literally follow Jesus as he walks by. Their first question to the Teacher, “where are you staying” (John 1:38)? In his commentary New Testament scholar Gilberto Ruiz observes that “the Greek word translated as ‘stay’ is menô, a term that in Johannine vocabulary signifies a permanent remaining or abiding.” Discipleship is located at/@ and in the company of Jesus. As Ruiz points out, “the place where Jesus resides is with his disciples” and in turn, the network of relations expands as those who love Jesus are also loved by the Father, and in these beloved and loving disciples “we will come and make our dwelling” (John 14:23). Once situated where Jesus is at/@ the disciples too participate in extending the network of belonging as Andrew invites his brother Simon Peter to relocate.
In the atrium of the academic and conferencing center at the Catholic Theological Union is a small sign with the words “Where God Found Us.” It sits on the edge of a world map with hundreds of pins locating where CTU students come from and where as alumni they minister. The sign also serves to remind our ever growing CTU community that now, in this space, physical and virtual, in our particularity, in our diversity, in the ordinariness of our study, our scholarship, our ministry–at/@ here–theophany occurs, and divine revelation expects a response!
To be at/@ here is to be present in receptive ways to the often jarring call of God. Here can be a place of risk requiring a prophetic daring to read and confront the discomforting signs of one’s place and time.
To be at/@here means embracing our complicated, gifted, and limited embodiment while realizing that acceptance of a divine call is enfleshed. The word is projected and inscribed upon us, ingested and finds a home deep in our entrails; therefore consistency is expected in our actions.
To be at/@here is to participate in a discipleship rooted in connection and belonging, in ever expanding webs of relationships and responsibilities committed to the reign of God’s justice and peace.
Where are you at/@?