While the boy Samuel was helping Eli the priest at the Temple at Shiloh, the Lord called to him three times. He thinks it is Eli calling him, but after disturbing Eli a third time, Eli realizes God is calling Samuel. He tells Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel did what Eli instructed, and the Lord spoke to him. We do not read the full story in today’s first reading, but the Lord told Samuel that since Eli was not calling his sons to repentance and reparation for their sins of fornication and ir-reverence in the Temple, punishment would come down upon them if they remained unrepentant.
Out of love, Samuel told Eli the prophecy, but Eli did nothing and so punishment came upon them. His two sons died in battle on the same day that the Ark of the Lord was captured. Eli also died that same day. However, God showed mercy to those in his family that followed the Ten Command-ments and offered themselves in service to God with the holy sacrifices, begging mercy for their deceased.
Samuel grew in his vocation by listening to and following the Lord’s commandments with the support of his father and mother, and five siblings. This household, or “oikos” (in Greek parlance – oy’-kose) was intentional in following God’s com-mandments of life, love and wisdom, and thereby opened them-selves to God’s promises of protection and blessings while serv-ing his plan.
We all have the same call from the Lord, the same voca-tion as Samuel and his family. Our common call or “vocation” is to be holy, to be a saint of God. Baptism is the beginning of becoming a saint because at that moment we are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ – the Church. St. Paul re-minds us: “The body is not for immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power… But whoever is joined to the Lord be-comes one Spirit with him.”
To be one Spirit with God is to be united to Jesus Christ and to his Church members who are striving to live holy lives. There are five principles for growing in holiness: 1) we pray every day individually (a.m. and p.m.) and as a family, espe-cially before meals, when possible.
2) we worship God every weekend at Holy Mass and offer our lives to God with thanks and praise.
3) we serve the Church and the poor. Maybe you have the calling (vocation) to be an ordained priest, religious brother or sister, or called to marriage for the glory of God? In that primary vocation you also might be called to serve as a cate-chist, lector, cantor, pastoral council member, etc.
4) as disciples (student followers of Jesus and his Catholic Church), we are called to study the Bible and learn about our Catholic faith.
5) we are called to welcome and evangelize others by inviting them to walk with us, not alone, but in small groups.
This is not always easy and thus Archbishop Hebda has asked us to enter into the “Parish Evangelization Cell System” which is a program sponsored by the Archdiocese. It has trained many of our fellow parishioners this past year to be leaders and co-leaders of small groups which are being formed.
This system, affectionately known as PECS, is a system whereby the pastor, leaders and co-leaders, with the guidance of the Archbishop and his staff, invite parishioners to enter into a committed small group of 6 to 12 people to meet weekly to support one another in praise and prayer, the study and
sharing of our faith, and service of each other by praying for healing when necessary.
The beauty of this “small group” evangelization is that it meets people where they are and invites them to walk with a particular group and, when the time seems good, to invite them into our parish church where they register as members and receive the full benefits of parish living. That is why this system is called “Parish Evangelization Cell System” (PECS). The goal is to help people dispose themselves to saying “Yes” to the fullness of our Catholic faith and learn to celebrate and invite others to learn about Jesus Christ and his plan of salvation through his Seven Sacraments celebrated at our parish.
In today’s Gospel we see how Andrew evangelized his brother Simon. After hearing John the Baptist call Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” Andrew follows him to his home and quietly remains in his presence listening to his words of truth, of friendship and of salvation.
After this, Andrew went to his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah”, then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter, for he becomes the Rock upon which Jesus Christ builds his family - the Catholic Church.
As we look at Jesus forming his disciples, we recognize that Christ formed a small group of disciples who remained close to him and became the Twelve Apostles. The apostles eventually form small groups or “house churches” and would come to the Temple and worship the Lord more fruitfully, with the support of their “households”.
This is the model and reason Archbishop Hebda calls each parish and pastor to form “synodal small groups” which meet in the church or houses weekly. The leaders and co-leaders continue to collaborate with me as their pastor, and the Archdiocese support team, that we might grow in numbers and increase our faith.
Just as Samuel and Andrew listened to the voice of God and proclaimed the truth of Jesus Christ, so we have an opportunity to listen to Jesus Christ and bring others to pray with us in small groups, hopefully including quiet time of Adoration and learning to pray the Rosary. When we strive for holiness, our spirits and our families grow as temples of the Holy Spirit, de-spite our weaknesses. This pleases God who will save us and reward us.
Next weekend we will have small group sign up before and after Mass so that, as a parish community, we can “grow together in Christ”. These small groups will begin meeting in Lent (Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14), and hopefully will continue on through the Easter Season, but at least for the Season of Lent.
Peace in Christ, Fr. McCabe