The Books of Samuel

Hannah Praying for a Child. Furmyer Bible Library of Congress

We’ll be reading weekdays at Mass for almost three weeks, from Monday of the 1st week of the year till Thursday of the 3rd week, from the two books of Samuel. They begin with a woman praying for a child.The books go on to tell the story of two important Jewish kings, Saul and David, and the prophets, Samuel and Nathan, who dead with them. They’re packed with intrigue, wars and names and places we can hardly pronounce.

Why read old stories from the Jewish scriptures? Why not stick to the simplicity of the gospel and the story of Jesus, maybe adding the Acts of the Apostles and the story of the early church?

We read the Old Testament for the same reason we read about old saints. They make us aware that God acts in time and God’s plan unfolds in time. The Jewish scriptures and the stories of saints of the past help us understand our own time. 

The Books of Samuel recall the change that took place as the Jews moved from a loose association of tribes to a people ruled by kings. The change wasn’t easy; it was messy, slow and typically human. Though the books begin by telling us a prophet, Samuel, was born, the prophet’s role–and God’s role as well–seems often obscured in a story of human history that seems out of divine control. 

Yet, God’s plan unfolds and the prophet speaks to his word. It unfolds in a tension between the human and divine, the political and the spiritual, human slowness and divine patience, sin and grace.  It unfolds as it does in our time, in our world and our church, in ourselves.

Just look around while reading the Books of Samuel

We read the Books of Samuel along with the Gospel of Mark for the next few weeks. A study in contrasts. Samuel is slowly recognized as a prophet, beginning with his mother Hannah’s reception in the temple as she prays for a son. His times seem asleep. Totally human.

Jesus, on the other hand, arrives in Caphernaum, like a bolt of lightening. All around him come to see what he does and listen to what he says.

But then, they turn away.

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