A reading from the First Book of Samuel
(Chapter 1:20-22, 24-28)
This is a heart-warming and heartbreaking story, especially for those of us who are parents. Many of us have prayed for a child as Hannah did and were overjoyed when that child was born. I suspect that none of us would do what Hannah did, nor would we ever be asked to do so. This event, however, took place thousands of years ago in the context of a different culture and religion. Hannah did what she thought was right and dedicated the life of her child to God’s service. And Samuel did, indeed, perform great service to God and to the people of Israel.
We can identify with Hannah in this sense: We sometimes make sacrifices for our children and for others, and we them with some pain but also with the joy of giving from deep in our hearts.
(An alternate reading for this feast is from the Book of Sirach, Chapter 3:2-6,, 12-14)
“Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.” This expression, “fear the Lord,” has been misunderstood for centuries and has been used to frighten and mislead people into both spiritual and emotional illness. The fear of the Lord that the Psalmist is talking about is not the cringing, debilitating fear that drains the joy in people and keeps them from the all- powerful and all-forgiving love of God. The real sense of the word “fear” in Hebrew is “awe” and “wonder” at God’s great power and might.
Are you truly in awe of God, enthralled with his goodness, in wonder of his great creation? Or are you still caught up in the words you may have heard in your childhood: “You better be good or God will punish you.” How you answer that question may either bring you a powerful sense of God’s peace and protection or encourage that little voice that is sometimes in your head that says, “You’re not good enough.”