In those days,
Hannah brought Samuel with her,
along with a three-year-old bull, and ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy's father had sacrificed the young bull,
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
"Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD."
She left Samuel there.
"She left Samuel there"
That last line is a difficult one for me to read. Did he cry? Did she long to take him back? Why would such a sacrifice be needed? This child, Samuel, factors big in salvation history and he is close to the Lord in a mysterious way! He hears the Lord and he responds to His voice; maybe it is because his mother's generosity and trust in the Lord removed obstacles of fear and doubt. Me, on the other hand, well, my fear of pain as well as my satisfaction with the world sometime prevent me from really listening to the Lord and from wholly offering myself to Him. As I struggle with that last line, I am being asked to open my heart, to feel the longing and sorrow Hannah must have had in leaving her much loved son and trust in the mysterious majesty of God! A sacrifice made with trusting love is re-payed with unfathomable generosity that flows from generation to generation.
Withhold nothing from God!Read Hannah's canticle to God after she has left Samuel with Eli. Though her sacrifice was costly, she knows God is at work. Hannah's canticle foreshadows Mary's, who also holds nothing back from God. Neither woman lets the fear of pain or gnawing anxiety over impending loss harden their hearts or dampen their joy. They do not protect themselves from their sorrow by withholding their love. This makes the pain of their loss more intense I think, yet it also disposed them to receive the intense love of God all the more. Their whole lives are an offering to God and their hearts are always in trusting prayer. They understand that all that they have is God's and that nothing can be withheld from Him. They trust in The Lord who fulfills His promises to even the barren, or a lowly young women of Nazareth.
Luke 1: 46-56:
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant,
from this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy.
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever."
Rejoice in His redeeming mercy!The sorrows and sacrifices of this world should always whisper to us "in the beginning it was not so", and in so doing reveal to us that we are indeed souls in exile; we are separated from the Heavenly Bridegroom. If only we can allow his redeeming mercy to scatter out attachments. If we do not allow these attachments to be sent away from our hearts our hopes for things eternal will become weak, and our fears will control us! We will settle for so much less than what God has in mind for each one of us. We have to learn to allow God to let us long for what is truly lasting; and trust in His faithfulness in filling the empty spaces in our souls. Allow Hannah and Mary's wholehearted trust to get you in touch with the holy longing in your soul -- a longing that is as poignant as a mother who longs for her child. Trust, like Mary and Hannah did, that someday we will see that the longing we so often fill with worldly things be fulfilled in abundance. It is in that longing that we should rejoice, because that longing is drawing us to Him.
God is faithful in all that He promises!Hannah hears and responds to God in her longings, for a son, and then her longing for him in sorrow after letting him go to fulfill God's plan. God responds to her longing and sorrow. Her trust in the Lord makes straight the way for God's salvation for generations to come! God is the one who will soothe all of these sorrows in the end, because all of them reveal our world's need to be made new. Mary does not reject what she does not fully comprehend. She does not hide away from the pain and sacrifice she will face with her son, foretold by the Scriptures and by Simeon. She loves deeply and her heart is pierced deeply. There is nothing superficial or lukewarm about these women. Their sorrow is deep, but their everlasting joy is deeper still because they seek joy from God!
What is God asking of me?
He is asking for me to trust in Him in sorrow and in joy, and to hold nothing back from Him. To cast down the fear, envy and pride that keep my hopes from the heights of heaven. To let go of even good things if they are keeping my heart from Him. To seek the Heavenly Bridegroom in whom all my longing will be fulfilled!
Grace and Peace to all!