Thoughts on Hannah at Shiloh

If you go to mass today, you will hear the second installment of the conception and call of the great Old Testament prophet Samuel.  (Check out the readings here.)

A particular exchange between Eli, the old priest in the Lord’s temple, and Hannah, the ostensibly barren, grieving mother caught my attention:

Eli watched her mouth, for Hannah was praying silently;
though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard.
Eli, thinking her drunk, said to her,
“How long will you make a drunken show of yourself?
Sober up from your wine!”
“It isn’t that, my lord,” Hannah answered.
“I am an unhappy woman.
I have had neither wine nor liquor;
I was only pouring out my troubles to the LORD.
Do not think your handmaid a ne’er-do-well;
my prayer has been prompted by my deep sorrow and misery.”

There’s a danger, it seems, as aspiring ministers – lay or ordained – to tend toward a penchant for spiritual diagnostics.  We see a problem, and, judging by what we see, we make a judgment call.

Subsequently, we prescribe what it is that someone needs.  In this case, Eli tells Hannah to sober up!  The examples in our ministerial lives may not be as mistaken as this one, but I think it is something that is well-considered the next time we are tempted to “Fire-Ready-Aim.”

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