The New Year has begun, and we’re still under the shadow of a global pandemic. Somehow, in the midst of so many restrictions, so much anxiety and loss, we move forward in hope. The Lord is with us! The readings of the Mass for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Sunday, 17th January) could very easily be the readings for any Mass for Vocations or discernment.

The First Reading is a beautiful account of the call of Samuel. Samuel is a young man under the direction of Eli, the priest of Shiloh. Samuel and Eli together, discern Samuel’s call or vocation from the Lord. It is a call for complete dedication and discipleship. This call begins in Samuel’s learning to listen, to hear what God is saying.

The reading ends with the line: ‘Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground’.

Today, especially, we are bombarded with words, with images and messages, which seem to fall around us like litter, cluttering up the inner spaces of our hearts. The words which Samuel learned to speak did not fall like litter on the ground. Samuel’s words gave life to people, because Samuel’s words were from the Lord. Before we have anything to say to others, we need to listen: ‘Speak, Lord, I’m listening!’

Discerning a vocation within the Church is listening to a call that comes from within and beyond our own selves. It is always God’s gift.

In the Gospel of the Mass for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, two of John the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus, ‘where do you live?’ Jesus replies, ‘come and see’.

During the process of discerning a vocation to the Franciscan way of life, candidates often attend ‘Come and See’ weekends in one of our friaries. You can learn a great deal about Saint Francis and the Franciscans through correspondence, through literature and even film. But, very often, it is the experience of living with the friars, even for a weekend or a few days that answers most of a candidate’s questions.

When Jesus says ‘come and see’, He is inviting the two disciples into a relationship of intimacy and trust. We don’t just invite just anyone into our homes. Our homes are where we are most truly ourselves. To visit someone in their home implies a relationship, or at least, the beginning of a relationship.

Present restrictions mean we cannot invite people into our homes at the moment. Please God, during this year, as the crisis eases, we will have the opportunity to invite candidates to ‘come and see’ Franciscan life, as we live it today.

To all those who are discerning a vocation at the beginning of this new year of grace, may God bless you and guide you along!

Friar Liam

Texts for prayer and pondering: Samuel, 3: 3 –10. 19   Gospel of John, 1: 35 – 42.