The first reading for this Sunday tells the warm story of Eli & Samuel. I imagine that almost everyone in the world can identify with one of these two characters.
For young people in the Church, Samuel is a tremendous model. When he first feels himself being called, Samuel wants to respond immediately, even though he doesn’t really know how. The Scripture even tells us that “Samuel ran to Eli.” The boy doesn’t get frustrated, either, even as the mysterious voice he hears continues to nag him. Perhaps most notably, he demonstrates great humility by asking for Eli’s help. Samuel is, indeed, a great model for our young people and for how they should go about discerning the Lord’s call in their lives.
For others in the Church, it is Eli who serves as the great model. Did it not require the aid of Eli’s wisdom for Samuel to recognize the voice of the Lord? Eli, himself, had to recognize the Lord’s presence and then give Samuel direction so that he could respond to it. This is the great contribution of parents, teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, Scout leaders, and all types of mentors: to point out the voice of the Lord. They have the opportunity to help young people discern their calling in life and to offer them encouragement as they learn to live it out.
There is no doubt in my mind & heart that God has a plan for every single one of us. Perhaps the greatest task young people face is figuring out what that plan is. A great many people, though, unfortunately never bother with taking up that task. This is, of course, a terrible shame, since none of us can ever be happy apart from God’s plan for us.
This is proven over & over & over again in the news every day. Some people think that doing whatever they want whenever they want will make them happy. They are (I would imagine) surprised to find that the end result of living in such a way actually isn’t happiness, but misery. Only in doing the will of God do we ever find peace; only by living out God’s plan for our lives can we be truly happy.
Our Church needs many young people like Samuel, who are willing to be called and formed in unique & beautiful ways. We need them to stand up and say with Samuel, “Here I am. You called me.”
Our Church also needs many wise Eli’s to guide our young people. We need them to point out the voice of the Lord—whatever it might be saying—in the midst of our societal noise.
I am confident that the Lord is speaking. My hope is that His young servants will be listening.