Scripture in Depth
Reading I: 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19
The call of Samuel serves as a type of the infancy narratives. Note particularly the echo of 1 Sam 3:19 in Lk 2:52. This Sunday, however, a rather different typology is suggested.
Today’s Gospel, while not a direct narrative of Jesus’ baptism (something that the Fourth Gospel studiously avoids), contains John the Baptist’s witness to Jesus. This witness is probably based on the heavenly voice at the baptism of Jesus. In his baptism Jesus responded to his Father’s call to take up the mission of the eschatological prophet.
Thus, the call of Samuel, which is a call to be a prophet, serves as a type of Christ’s baptism. Like Jesus in his baptism, Samuel hears the call of God and responds with the words “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.” So, too, the Fourth Gospel frequently speaks of the Son hearing the Father’s words.
Responsorial Psalm: 40:20,2,4,7-8,8-9,10
This psalm is used today as a response to the reading of Samuel’s call, and this reinforces the typological interpretation we offered above, for this psalm was applied to our Lord by the author of Hebrews.
It is Christ who says the words of the refrain: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.” Hebrews pictures Christ as saying these words when he “came into the world.”
This “coming” need not be narrowly confined to the moment of his birth; his coming covers his baptism, in which he embarked upon his messianic mission, and indeed every moment of the incarnate life, in which he responds constantly to the Father’s call
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20
The context of Paul’s argument here is a discussion of immoral sexual behavior in the Corinthian community. Paul is not so much concerned with the guilty parties (perhaps some kind of temple prostitution was involved; it was a question of a hangover from their previous pagan life) but with the failure of the Corinthians to discipline the offender.
As “gnostics,” they used the slogan “All things are lawful for me”—anything goes. They felt this way because as gnostics they believed that their Christian experience enabled them to transcend the realities of the material world.
Against this gnostic position Paul argues that the Christian experience, rather than delivering the soul from the body, brings the whole person, body and soul alike, under the lordship of Christ. Paul drives home his point with two figures.
The first pictures the individual believers as members of Christ. Here, for the first time in Paul’s letters, we meet the figure of the church as the body of Christ, a figure that will be developed in 1 Cor 12.
Since sexual immorality involves the whole person, it deprives Christ of his rightful property. It is worth noting that Paul’s first use of the concept of the ecclesial body of Christ is ethical.
The second figure is of the Church as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Sexual immorality desecrates the temple of the Lord. This figure is particularly appropriate if temple prostitution was the point at issue.
Gospel: John 1:35-42
This is the Johannine version of the call of the first disciples. The Fourth Gospel connects the call very closely with the ministry of John the Baptist.
The evangelist, interpreting his tradition of the baptism of Jesus (which, as we have seen, he suppresses because of his polemic against later members of the “baptist” sect), has the Baptist point out to his disciples the presence of the “Lamb of God.” The terminology may be a reflection of the heavenly voice, “Thou art my beloved Son, the object of my favor.”
This voice, in its synoptic form, points to the figure of the servant of Yhwh, and it is not improbable that the title “Lamb” is connected with the title “servant,” whether as a word-play in Aramaic or as an echo of the comparison of the servant to the lamb led to the slaughter in Isaiah 53.
Thus, the message of this passage will be: True followers of John the Baptist, those who really listen to their master, leave him and follow Jesus.
The true disciple of John, therefore, comes to Jesus with the question “Where are you staying?”
In the Fourth Gospel, to “stay” means more than just to lodge in a house overnight; it is the same word as is used for “abide” in those Christological passages that speak of the Son’s abiding in the Father. This is what the two disciples really come and “see” (another theological word, meaning to perceive with the eye of faith the mystery of the Word in the flesh).
In this encounter the new disciples make a Christological confession: “We have found the Messiah.” And because of this confession, Simon is renamed Cephas.
Here the evangelist telescopes into a single scene a whole process of revelation and response that, historically speaking, covered a much longer period, extending from the baptism of Jesus through Peter’s confession and the Easter appearances.
The evangelist’s concern is to present a theological interpretation of history, not a mere chronicle of historical events.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University