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Reflection on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted on January 14, 2024, by Eleanor Craig SL

1 Samuel 3 1 Corinthians 6 John 1

One sentence in the reading from Samuel caught my attention: “At that time Samuel was not familiar with God because God had not revealed anything to him as yet.”  The sentence made me think about my earliest days, as a child and in the novitiate, just starting to become “familiar with God.”  How familiar have I become with God since those early days?  And how has it happened, how is it happening still?

When I was in my 40s, I had had it with religious books — what we used to call spiritual reading — books that wrote about God in declarative sentences, like “As we know from St. Thomas, God is eternal.“ A statement like that seemed so cerebral, cold blooded, the opposite of the familiarity that one develops with a friend or in a family. I told God that I was through with studying religious books and if God wanted me to know more, God would have to show me through my daily life. That was one of those “be careful what you wish for” moments.  Within a few years, I became aware that my life was running downhill, out of control, and I was powerless to stop it.  I was dying, and I needed a lot of human help.  Most important, though, I needed to surrender to God’s loving power in my life. In the process, I’ve become more familiar with God.

  The passage from Corinthians seems to highlight and clarify just how I’ve been getting familiar with God. St. Paul says, “… our bodies are members of Christ … joined to Christ, becoming one Spirit with Christ.”  Paul suggests that our bodies are the training grounds for familiarity with God, our bodies are both the means and the repository of our growing familiarity with God.  

The dictionary says the Latin roots of “familiar” mean domestic, intimate; close relationship as in a domestic or intimate relationship.

Whatever our circumstances, it is through our bodies, our bodily experiences and limitations, that we develop familiarity with God.  How and what we feel and think, how and with whom we relate, how we engage our energies and for what — it is through all these physical ways of being God touches us, draws us, teaches us, challenges us and reveals God’s own self to us.  In all these ways in all the moments of our lives, God inspires, “in spirits” us as an abiding presence within us.  All this is ours because we are bodily persons.  

The story in today’s Gospel follows in the same line, because everything is really the same story:  St. John’s passage lets us hear Godly Love speaking in the voice of the Baptist, inspiring two curious men to follow Jesus, the very embodiment of God.  Jesus notices them following and turns to ask what they’re looking for — a simple, human question answered by their equally simple, human question: “Where are you staying?”  Human beings, bodied persons, follow and look, ask and answer questions in human voices and have places where they stay; all these ways of living in our bodies are the means by which we become familiar with God and God is revealed and becomes familiar with us.

Taken together, this morning’s readings affirm again the message of Christmas, the amazing truth of God made flesh: God’s most familiar presence with us, revealed in and by our very bodies and in the bodies of our companions, in all that physically surrounds us. The abiding presence of Love is revealed over and over and over, throughout a world which appears steeped in sorrow, suffering, cruelty and death. For those becoming familiar with God, Love is in it all.


Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor has been a Sister of Loretto since 1963 and an educator since birth. She graduated from two of Loretto's best known St. Louis institutions, Nerinx Hall High School in 1960, and Webster University in 1967. She taught mathematics at Loretto in Kansas City, where her personal passion for adventure history inspired her to develop and lead treks along the historic Oregon Trail. From 1998 to 2010 she created an award-winning program of outdoor adventure along the Western trails for teens who are visually impaired. Eleanor claims to have conducted more wagon trains to the West than the Mountain Men! From 2012 to 2021, Eleanor led a talented staff of archivists and preservationists at the Loretto Heritage Center on the grounds of the Motherhouse. Now retired, she still serves in the Heritage Center as Loretto Community Historian.