Right after Epiphany Sunday which celebrated the joyful truth of God’s manifestation to all nations and to each and every one of us to assure us of his fidelity to the covenant, we can now move on and continue to reflect deeply on this invitation to a loving relationship with this God who communicates and reveals Himself.
This Sunday, we can speak of the invitation to intimacy with God. For most of us believers, God is present in our lives but great are the odds that we see Him as a distant God watching us from afar or as a God of providence who becomes especially real to us in times of dire need. Today’s readings reveal a God who calls us, who initiates a loving relationship with us, who invites us to intimacy.
God calls us through the voice of restlessness. The young Samuel, in the first reading (1 Sm. 3: 3-10, 19), experiences some restless nights trying to discern whose voice it is that calls him. Twice, he mistakenly believes it is Eli’s voice. Only on the third instance, with Eli’s guidance, that he recognizes the voice of God calling him. In the gospel reading (Jn. 1: 35-42), the first two disciples of Jesus find themselves in a restless search, perhaps, for something to which they can meaningfully devote their lives. Jesus confronts them: “What are you looking for?”
Restlessness is a universal human experience. At some point in our lives, we all find ourselves searching for something that can give us peace, contentment, and meaning. This spurs us on to a frustrating exploration in life looking for happiness in money and possessions, in our achievements and honors, in power and influence, in pleasure and easy gratification. Some quite desperately and sadly settle with destructive addictions.
But restlessness can be the voice of God calling us to Himself. Like Samuel, we need to listen to God’s voice: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Or like the first disciples of Jesus, we need to face him and answer bravely his question, “What are you looking for?” We can be helped tremendously by spiritual guides—like Eli and John who led Samuel and the disciples rightly to the direction of God. Spiritual directors, as we call them now, can assist us in discerning the voice of God in our experience of restlessness and sorting out the authentic voice of God from many other voices that are there to confuse and mislead us.
God invites us to intimacy with Him. Only in God can our search be over. As the famous line of St. Augustine’s confession goes: "You have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."
God desires that we rest in Him, that we spend time with Him. Again, after Samuel recognized God’s voice and came to Him with an open and listening heart, the first reading states, “Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him.” In the gospel, the disciples received Jesus’ invitation: “Come and see.” This is an invitation to intimacy... an invitation to spend time with God and to know Him quite personally... not as a distant God... not as a “spare-tire God” whom we remember only when we are running with a flat tire.
Amid the hurly-burly of our crazy contemporary lives, we experience a growing emptiness or restlessness. If we are not guided properly, we can be very careless and senselessly plunge into an ultimately destructive coping mechanisms and addictions that offer us nothing but bottomless pit of emptiness.
Today’s readings remind us of God’s standing invitation—“Come and see...” “Be with me...” “Whatever you do... you can do it with me.” Our restlessness is but a longing for intimacy with a God who is just too happy to be known and be recognized. May we sort out, from the many voices that drown us every day, the real voice of God inviting us to intimacy with Him.