Getting to know someone is an exciting and a scary thing. When was the last time you got to know someone really well? Can you remember what the experience was like? And what about those friendships that are long and lasting with people that we know really well. Can you remember how it is or was that these friendships developed? What was it that made things work? Of course there is some natural attraction and some chemistry that has to work for friendships to spark up and take off but there is more too. There is a process of discovery, or learning, of asking and sharing, of spending time together. Don’t you learn a lot about someone when you are on holidays together? Observing and experiencing how people do nothing or fill in the day is a great way to get to know them. I had a friend who followed a new boyfriend overseas once – that relationship didn’t work but they very quickly found out all kinds of things about each other. That they weren’t compatible was one of those things. Then there are friendships and relationships that really work. You know a good friend when you can look at each other and at a glance you know what the other is thinking or about to say. You know that you only have to say a word, make a phone call, and they are there – no questions just ready to be at your side.
For married couples that friendship and partnership can be powerful and fruitful.
Today in the readings the Scriptures attest to another type of relationship – one that is akin to or analogous to friendship and that is the relationship between God and human beings. We see it in the relationship between Samuel and God and between Jesus and John and Jesus and the disciples, namely Andrew and Peter. Like human relationships these relationships attested to in the scriptures also take time, discernment, listening, compromise, sacrifice and love.
Like human relationships there has to be some affinity, some natural attraction or chemistry for the relationship to take off. The Judeo-Christian tradition professes that this natural attraction or chemistry is there with God from the beginning as it professes that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. No-one in the eyes of our Judeo-Christian tradition is outside the offer of friendship with God. No-one. The first reading tells of Samuel’s experience of coming to know God. While at rest, while sleeping or perhaps almost sleeping he hears his name. Isn’t it true that it is often in stillness or quiet in those moments when the mind is free or when sleep is near that we can be in touch with our deepest longings and our inmost being. There in that state Samuel is aware that he is not alone, that his name is known be another. The experience is so strong he gets up and goes to his master Eli. Yes Eli – you called. No I didn’t call – go back to sleep. A second and a third time this experience occurs before Eli – he knows God – recognizes what is happening. Just respond ‘yes Lord here I am’. Here we have the beginning of a beautiful faith journey between Samuel and God. This text attests to the beginning of Samuel’s prayer life. He discovers that someone beyond him knows him and loves him, wants to be intimately involved in his life. Samuel learns the lesson of quiet, silence, attentiveness to what is going on inside of him. The story of Samuel will be one of learning again and again to listen to the voice of God in his conscience.
In the Gospel something similar is at work. There are more encounters. This time we hear from the Gospel of John. There are two images that stand out. The first is that John the Baptist looks hard at Jesus and then proclaims – Look, there is the Lamb of God. Here we learn something else about the relationship that we have with God. John has been looking hard, and discerns – this man is of God. And then the two others follow. There is something about our discovery of Jesus that requires other witnesses of faith. In other words we look to those who have gone before us, we look to those who we admire in faith and often they are able to point to or witness to where God is at work. The community of faith is important.
Secondly we have this moment when Jesus looks hard at Peter and then says – you shall be called Cephas meaning rock. This is a third phase of the journey of friendship or relationship with God. Peter, like Samuel felt the presence of God like a stare, like a deep knowing. You are called to something more. Samuels story is the beginning of the relationship. Peter’s has reached a pivotal point. You know me and I know you – now there is something great to be done. You will be a rock.
As we move into ordinary time we are summoned to be attentive to the relationship with our God. We are alerted to not dismiss the voices and the inner callings of the heart as we rest or sit in silence. We are alerted to be ready for the call to be more – to take our faith journey outward like Peter. We are called to stand ready for the friendship that defines the very heart of who we are. We have learnt that the Lord will seek us out and it as Peter will find out he may take us to places we would rather not go.