We know that “God speaks to us in many ways” (1,5): in prayer, in Scripture, in holy books, through others, through events. No one is too good to hear from God; neither is anyone too bad. No one is too lofty for God; neither is anyone to lowly. In fact, explicit personal divine revelation is almost always granted to the humblest and most nondescript persons in the Bible and since, it seems.
So, Samuel was also of humble origins. His mother prayed endlessly that her barrenness end and the first child that was an answer to that prayer was Samuel, whom she promptly dedicated to the Lord. Today’s first reading (1 Sam 3:1-10, 19-20) indicates, “At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet” (v. 7). Now the Lord reveals Himself with several audible “taps on the shoulder,” so to speak. in the middle of the night. Thus begins an amazing life in service to the Lord.
Samuel did not recognize the Lord’s calling. Maybe he did not think it could happen to him (it certainly took his mentor Eli a while to figure out what was going on — as the reading says, in those days “the word of the LORD was scarce and vision infrequent” [v. 1], so maybe we can understand his obtuseness).
Do we recognize God calling us? Certainly, it is a rare occurrence indeed to have the Lord personally and audibly make Himself known to us. But no one is above or below God’s interest in him (see Mt 10:29-31, for example).
We must take quiet time with the Lord and listen closely for the help and guidance of His “still, small voice” (1 Kgs 19:11-13). Additionally, reading Scripture, taking up spiritual reading, seeking the counsel of a spiritual adviser, and paying attention to persons and events that seem to be giving indication of the Lord’s presence, are all means that God uses to speak to us.
In a day and age in which there are more distractions and noise than ever, we must give God, ever the gentleman who does not impose Himself on us, the opportunity to reach us.
Hannah presenting Samuel to the priest Eli by Albert Valentin (b. after 1908–d. after 1968)