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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Canticle of Hannah

The readings for yesterday's Mass were about Hannah offering her little Samuel to Eli. This is one of those stories that haunt me all day.  I keep thinking about it and a question keeps rising from my soul:  "what are you asking of me Lord?"  I realize that I have no heart to receive the deep profound grace of God if I cannot entrust to the Lord all that I hold most dear.
1 Sm 1:24-28

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.

What are you asking of me Lord?
That last line is a difficult one for me to read.  I can't imagine taking my three year old daughter and placing her in the care of someone else and leaving! Can you see why this haunts me with the question "what are you asking of me?" I am not capable of that level of sacrifice, and why would the Lord ever need such a heart wrenching act? It seems cruel to separate a young child from his mother, (and if you have read the whole story you know that Eli did not do such a great job with his own sons)! Who is this God whose holiness is so awesome that such a sacrifice is warranted, and how can He ever heal the devastating heartache of a mother who no longer has her child to hold?  My soul cries out for an answer.   I know that I can never fully understand the ways of God here in this Valley of Tears,  but these readings keep whispering to me.  Though my heart breaks for Hannah and her little Samuel, I am seeing that God can be trusted for He is forging the path back to Himself, and He is the refuge for the brokenhearted.  Hannah has put all of her trust in Him, she holds nothing back.  

Open your heart to His majesty!
 This child, Samuel, factors big in salvation history and is close to the Lord in a mysterious way! He listens and hears the Lord, maybe it is because he has learned from his mother that the unfathomable God is to be entrusted with everything we have, and our hearts should always be listening for His gentle calling.  In the end it is my fear of pain as well as a superficial understanding of things that are holy and sacred that prevents me from hearing this passage, and what it has to ask of me.  And I am being asked in this reading to open my heart and trust in the mysterious majesty of God!  For as the readings continue we see that God's power works from generation to generation, and that He never forgets or overlooks the little ones, who have no where to go and no one they can completely trust.

Withhold nothing from God!
The Responsorial Psalm is taken from Hannah's canticle to God after she has left Samuel at the temple, and Hannah's canticle foreshadows Mary's, who will also suffer the loss of her son.   Neither woman lets the anxiety, or the pain of this world harden their hearts and so dampen their joy at being blessed with a child.  They do not protect themselves from loss by loving less, or holding back anything from God.  Their 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 God.  They trust in The Lord who fulfills His promises to even the lowly barren woman, or a poor maiden of Nazareth.

 Luke 1: 46-56:
Mary Said:

"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".  They can reveal to us that we are indeed souls in exile; we are separated from the  Heavenly Bridegroom.  They should focus our hearts on the journey to God, if only we can trust that when the Lord casts down the pride in our hearts, He will not forget us!  If only we can allow his redeeming mercy to scatter the attachments to materiel things or even to the idea that we have more that just superficial control over the events of the world.  If we do not have these things sent away from our hearts we may not realize that our hopes for things eternal are withering, and our fears of the unknown future will consume 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 hunger for what is truly lasting!  And trust in His faithfulness in filling the empty.   If only we can endure and help others to endure as well, so that someday we will see with pure eyes that the longing we so often ache with will have its true and lasting fulfillment. It is in that longing that we should rejoice in his redeeming mercy, as a mother longs for her child or a bride for her bridegroom, because the longing is an sign of a place where it will be fulfilled.

God is faithful in all that He promises!
 Hannah understands, the sorrow of leaving her son should reveal how profoundly sorrowful our lives are without God's fruitful grace in our soul!  Her trust in the Lord makes straight the way for God's salvation for generations to come!  God is the one who will sooth all of these sorrows.   Mary understands. She does not reject what she does not fully comprehend.   She does not hide away from the pain and sacrifice she will watch her son go through, 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!  And what is brought forth from these women of faith are beautiful songs that reveal God's fidelity down to the last generation!

What is God asking of me?
He is asking for me to trust in Him in sorrow and in joy.  To extend my hope from just the here and now into the future.  To cast down the envy and pride that keep my hopes from the heights of heaven.  To seek the Heavenly Bridegroom in whom all my longing will be fulfilled!

Grace and Peace to all!



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