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Sunday 17 January 2021: Peace Day

Start Right Where You Are

1 Samuel 3:1-10; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:35-42



By Clare Wordsworth

a Roman Catholic member of the Chaplaincy Team in a female prison.

Context: Roman Catholic prayer meeting reflecting on the forthcoming Sunday readings with up to 20 women, some coming to faith for the first time and others who have engaged with their faith while serving a prison sentence

Aim: we are loved where and as we are.

When Samuel was woken in the night by a voice, he thought was Eli’s, he went and asked, ‘Here I am, you called me?’ After the third time, Eli realised that, actually, it was the Lord calling Samuel. So, he told Samuel to reply by saying, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

Eli was Samuel’s guardian, spiritual teacher, and priest. He would have taught him a great deal about God and here he recognised that it was the Lord’s voice Samuel was hearing. I wonder how many more times Samuel would have got up that night if Eli hadn’t helped him recognise God’s voice and encouraged him to meet Our Lord?

I’ve always enjoyed hearing the story of a lost tourist in Ireland wanting to get to Dublin. When he sees a local man sitting at the side of the road, he pulls over to ask him for directions. After a few moments of chin-stroking and a good think, the man says, ‘Well now, if it’s Dublin you want to get to, you’d best not be starting from here!’

How often can we feel that to be in the presence of God, or even to have a conversation with Him, we’d best not be starting from where we are? I’m not worthy, we tell ourselves, I’m not good enough. He won’t want to hear from me.

When we read in the Gospels that Jesus called His disciples, and that they seemingly dropped everything - all they’d built and constructed, all they were connected to, and upped sticks and followed this man - we can be forgiven for wondering what on earth did Jesus say to them? The women were already with Jesus and walking with Him - what did Jesus offer that was so attractive?

We don’t know exactly what was said, but we can be sure that it wasn’t what Jesus promised on earth and it wasn’t what was on earth that caused people to drop everything and follow Him. Jesus spoke of returning to His Father and promised us that we could be with Him there.

We might not hear God’s voice in the middle of the night, but God invites us, every one of us, to be with Him. He doesn’t require us to have our lives in order. He accepts our hearts when they’re broken, when we have taken a wrong turn in the road and unlike the Irish man, He won’t say to us that we ‘don’t want to be starting from here.’ God loves us just as we are and just where we are.

Growing up in a large family, one of my earliest memories on a typical summer’s day was heading out to the woods to play, only coming home when it was time for food. Running into the kitchen, the first question my mother would ask was, ‘Where are your brothers and sisters - you were sent out together this morning, I expected you to look out for each other and come home together?’ If I couldn’t answer that question, I was in serious trouble. Reflecting on that today, I wonder if that might be a question asked of us when we meet our Lord - ‘I sent you out into the world together, I expected you to take care of each other and to lead each other home.’

Like Eli, there may be people whom we meet who will help us and lead us to experience an encounter with God. There may be places we can go where we feel close to God, like the chapel where we can ‘just be.’ There may be kindness or forgiveness shown by another when we don’t think we deserve it and times when we can dare to believe that we are loved, cherished, forgiven, children of God and the apple of His eye. In those moments, it doesn’t matter how the world sees us or how we’ve felt about ourselves at times.

Let’s each ask ourselves the question: Do I have an ‘Eli’ in my life who supports me in my spiritual journey and experience? Or am I an ‘Eli’ for somebody else? Can I show a kindness or compassion in a situation that really doesn’t deserve it, or can I be an example of love and gentleness that is irresistible?

As women, we can feel that we sometimes get a rough deal from Saint Paul. And if you wanted to explore his writings you certainly ‘wouldn’t want to start from there’ – the reading we hear today. But Paul isn’t telling us to think negatively about our physical selves here. For him ‘the body’ means ourselves as they are in real life. He tells us what Eli taught Samuel: that we are the Temple where God’s Holy Spirit dwells, the place where God speaks; each and every one of us, no matter how we feel about ourselves or our stories (or our bodies). Once we have grasped that, we’re on our way – and we’ll get to where we want to get to.

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