“Do not think your handmaid a ne’er-do-well.”

The first reading continues the Year II first readings for weekdays that started yesterday which was the first day of ordinary time after the Christmas season.  We read further in Samuel (1 Sam 9-20) about the plight of Hannah who we already learned suffered shame, rebuke, and heartache because she had not yet become pregnant.  Today we hear of her silent pleading to the Lord in the temple.  The priest Eli sees her lips moving but hears no words so he rebukes her for being intoxicated.  She responds by meekly telling him that she is not drunk but miserable due to her childlessness.  Eli prays that the Lord will grant her a child which perks her up considerably.  Soon after she becomes pregnant and that child, who she promises to dedicate to the Lord, is named Samuel.

Striking here is Hannah’s passive, submissive and, most of all, humble attitude toward this man who accuses her unjustly.  It would be easy to understand if she responded to Eli’s initial words with anger or dismissiveness.  He could have no idea of her sorrow yet he gives her grief for coming to the temple to pray.  Instead of showing compassion he treats her harshly.  Yet, she submits to this priest, telling him of her pain while explaining her actions, asking him not to think poorly of her (see the headline).  How Christlike to see such humility and gentleness in the face of anger and rebuke.  And, as it was with Jesus, this humble attitude leads to great things for Hannah.  She gains the favor of the priest who intercedes to God on her behalf.  Henceforth she delivers a son who eventually succeeds Eli as a great judge of the Chosen People and a prophet.  May we too learn that God works through our humble obedience to Him to turn any adversity, strife, anger, humiliation, or evil we endure into a greater good we could not have anticipated or effected.

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