“Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the youth.”

1 Samuel 3:8

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the Lord came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

(1 Samuel 3:8-10)

Continuing our reflections on the Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell recounts that, either accompanied by (often recruited by) a helper or mentor, the Hero undergoes a series of tests – often conflicts or personal struggles – as the familiarity of home is replaced with a new, uncertain, often dangerous space. What more dangerous space than to receive a call from God? It is not surprising that Samuel mistakes the call, thinking that his master Eli was calling him.

All credit to Eli: once he works out what is happening, he does not hold Samuel back in his life of Temple service.

Too often, when one shares a sense of calling with one’s nearest and dearest, there is more often than not disbelief, derision or even – often with the best intentions in mind – the desire to detract one from the call to adventure in the name of reasonability. How often have you been told by someone you trust, “That is not feasible. That is unrealistic.” when you express something of your vision?

Now on one level a certain scepticism is appropriate, particularly when someone who knows you well is worried that you are carried away with an enthusiasm – or that you may simply be deluded. I, for one, am thankful to those who reminded me that given my squeamishness I would probably not make a great cardiothoracic surgeon.

What Eli does, and what we should do, is encourage Samuel to test his calling. Is it really of God? Is it something he can do? We must neither dismiss nor discourage our own calling, but seek to clarify what it is and how our particular calling might play out.

Loving God,

Grant us the gift of wise counsellors And discerning hearts; That we might judge with greater precision How we are to live out your call to us.


Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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