What a sweet and lovely account we have in our first reading (1 Sam. 3). In the silence, in the darkness of the night, the Lord God spoke to a little boy named Samuel. He called him by name and entrusted him with a mission. But first, the boy was disconcerted, thinking it was the high priest Eli who was calling him. Eli, too, was confused and did not understand what was happening. Maybe he thought, Samuel was dreaming, like little children do when they sleep.

What is significant about this episode is the fact that at that time, it was said that the “word of God was scarce and vision infrequent” (v. 1). This means that people rarely heard God speaking, not because he stopped communicating but because the people failed to listen to his voice. Eli represents the people of this time; he was old and “his eyes grew weak and could not see” (cf 2). He was not blind but his eyes were no longer trained to look for signs of God’s presence. He was weary, slow, and no longer excited to encounter the Lord.

So the Lord turned to Samuel, who never had an experience of God before. Eli must have been old and tired, no longer adventurous and excited, but at least in his heart, he was still sensitive to divine action. He realized that it was God who was calling the boy. The people may have been complacent and inactive in their faith, but God was still active and moving about. In the background of the story, it says that the “lamp of God was not yet extinguished” (v 3), as if to say that God was fighting to remain visible, tangible, and proximate to his people.

At certain moments in our lives, we experience a spiritual dryness that seems to signify that God is distant or nowhere to be found; that he has forgotten us or abandoned us; that he ignores us and no longer wishes to speak to us. But is that really what happens? Is it not our eyes that grow dim, our ears that become deaf, our senses that fail to respond to stimulus? Have we become more like Eli the tired, old priest than Samuel the young, lively man who was always ready to recognize God’s call when it came?

At this stage in your life, at this period in your journey, what is God trying to tell you? Are you listening? Are you willing to do as he says? Or are you more busy listening to the noise of the world, following the attractions of the flesh, or avoiding an encounter with God and with yourself?

God is all initiative, gift, reaching out and love. On our part, we must be all welcome, receiving, and gratitude. Like Samuel, may we say: Speak Lord, your servant listens.