Following is Bishop Jaime Soto's Homily given on January 10, 2018—Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time—at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag, Philippines. A livestream of this Mass was provided by Manaoag Radio's Facebook Page, and can be found by clicking here.
In the 65th chapter of Isaiah, God spoke through the Prophet saying, “I was ready to respond to those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said: Here I am! Here I am! To a nation that did not invoke my name.” (Is. 65.1)
Today’s first reading is an example of the prophet’s words. God repeatedly called Samuel but the young boy did not know it was the Lord who was calling him. He had a restless night and gave poor Eli a sleepless night as he ran to him various times through the night. Once Eli understood who was calling Samuel, he properly instructed him how to respond to God. The life of young Samuel was transformed from then on.
When God called Samuel the last time, the young boy responded, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.” The manner of Samuel’s listening was not passive, merely sensory or cognitive. Samuel was lending his own being to the Lord’s Word. He listened to obey. He listened in order to live it. His whole being resonated with what he heard from the Lord. From that moment both God and Samuel were in a close, heart-to-heart relationship. This is obvious from the text that follows, “Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.”
From the moment Samuel listened to the Lord there was a harmony between them. That is why, along with the other great figures of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, Samuel was considered to be a friend of God. This began because Samuel listened to the voice of the Lord.
In the gospel reading, this matter of listening is taken to an even deeper level. We witness Jesús continuing to do powerful works in the town of Capernaum. In yesterday’s reading he cast out a demon from someone in the local synagogue. Today, he healed the mother-in-law of Simon Peter. Then, all those who were sick or possessed by demons were brought to Jesús so that he could heal them. As nighttime fell over the town, Jesus went out to the hills to pray. The next morning, he instructed his disciples that they were to go to another town even though everyone in Capernaum was looking to stay. Jesus was responding first to the word of His Father. Jesús was clear; he had come to do the Father’s will. Like the example of Samuel, the power of Jesus was always rooted in his heart-to-heart relationship with the Father. Jesús was always, first, the obedient Son of the Father. In this divine harmony was found the source of His mercy and joy. This is why people were attracted to him and why demons feared him. He was the obedient son who lovingly listened to every word from the Father’s heart.
As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we should pray the Spirit of Jesus is renewed and deepened in our lives. This is the spirit with which we can confidently call God, Abba, Father. This is the same spirit that can also teach us to listen to the Father with the obedient heart of Jesus.
To cultivate this spirit of obedient daughters and sons of God, we need to take the same lesson of Samuel. Understand that the Lord God is already calling us and lean towards him with the same prayer of that young boy, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
Acknowledge that we often put many of our own wants and fears before God’s own desires and hopes for us. Begin to put these aside, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
This is the path to finding a purity of heart. This is what it means to seek first the kingdom of God. As we learn to do so, then the spirit of Jesus will bring His enduring mercy and joy to our hearts.
As we come to the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the loving title, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag, we ask her inspiration as well as her intercession. She was the obedient servant of God who became the Cause of our Joy and our Mother of Mercy. May she tenderly teach us the humble obedience of her Son, Jesus.
Click here for a Facebook photo album that follows Bishop Soto's journey in the Philippines.