Listening for the Kingdom

Painting of Samuel learning from Eli

Image via Wikipedia

Readings:1Samuel 3:3b-10; John 1:35-42


The first reading and the Gospel reading this week speak to us on call and on prayer.  As a baptized Christian, I believe that God loves us all equally and uniquely.  It does beg the question, is God more pleased with some of us, like Samuel or Peter in how we respond to the call? Or does God love so much that we are just loved unconditionally? 


The Bible says that both Samuel and Peter received numerous theophanies or direct messages from God.  Peter’s are documented from the passages of the Transfiguration and of the Resurrection, and even a few times after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven; from these he determined the direction of the early Church.


Samuel seemed to experience direct messages throughout his life telling him to be a conduit of God’s messages for the transition from the period of the Judges to the first Israelite Kings.  In reflecting on Samuel’s interactions with Saul and David, it just seems natural to Samuel that he would get these messages and directions.  Why is that? And why does it not happen to all of us?


I have often reflected on this passage of Samuel’s calling.  The conclusion that I have come to is that this was the Prayer of Samuel: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”  The proof that Samuel was able to listen was that the Lord did not always say what Samuel wanted to hear.


Brothers and Sisters of Love was founded by Bill Tomes who experienced numerous theophanies or direct messages.  The messages of Love, Trust in God, Forgive Everyone, and Be Not Afraid are the basis on how we have worked with gang members and others through the years.   Even though I have never experienced a theophany myself, I have come to believe and experience the power of the messages that Brother Bill received.


If we believe we are called by God to being doing what we do or how we live, we must be tuned into God speaking to us in ways we can understand.  I pray the Prayer of Samuel often and seek to find the answers.  The danger is that I confuse God’s will with my own.  This is brought home to me when Jesus says that the Prostitutes, the Tax Collectors, and the Gang Bangers will enter the “Kingdom of God” before the Pharisees and Practicing Christians (Mt. 21:31).


Over the thirty years, I have experienced the grace of God “breaking into” situations that I face on the streets working among the poor.  Often it coincides with what I am praying about or struggling with.  Over and over again, I see that God shows no partiality to even gang bangers, drug dealers, and prostitutes who often show more generosity than I am willing show myself (see Peter in Acts 10:34).  That is not to say that the sins of gang bangers, drug dealers, and prostitutes are not devastating, because they are.  Still I have experienced the presence, grace, and Kingdom of God breaking into my life and the lives of the people I am with. 


Over the years people try to pin me down on the effects of Brothers and Sisters of Love on gang members.  There are still gangs, murders, drug abuse, and friends I have known for decades who go back to jail and prison.  If we are so effective, why haven’t these things stopped? I say often, come and see, like Jesus said to Andrew, John, and Peter.  They usually find something that they did not expect to see. 


Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things be given you besides (Mt. 6:33). It seems to me that we do this by listening to how God is speaking to us and finding where the Spirit of God is working, and following the direction of Jesus to Andrew, John, and Peter to go and see.


 –Brother Jim Fogarty, BSL

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About Brothers and Sisters of Love

The Mission of Brothers and Sisters of Love is to be a visible sign of Jesus’ Love, Peace, and Presence to the poor in gang-infested neighborhoods in Chicago and to be a bridge between gangs & the poor with the Church. This is done by: 1. Loving everyone 2. Trusting in God 3. Forgiving everyone everything 4. Never being afraid.
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