Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Image from The Jerusalem Post
Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
— 1 Samuel 1:8
Elkanah has two wives. He loves one more than the other. The wife he loves more is unable to bear children. God intervenes, and a chosen son is born, one who will do God's work on earth. It is the Jacob/Rachel/Joseph story repeated, only this time we have Elkanah, Hannah and Samuel. As mentioned in a previous reflection this is a common biblical theme, repeated several times.1 The chosen ones come from adversity rather than ease, from barrenness rather than plenty.
Hannah's sadness at her condition was compounded by the responses of those close to her. Her sister-wife, Peninnah mocks Hannah for her condition,2 Eli the priest mistakes her sadness for drunkenness and chides her,3 and her husband reprimands her, incredulous that he himself is not considered enough. Until Eli changes his tone on the final temple visit before Samuel's conception Hannah remains unheard, bereft of compassion, year after year.
We consider Samuel's conception as a God-given miracle, which indeed it is, but it is a miracle of charity rather than an act of magic. It just needed one person to listen to Hannah, to really listen and hear her sadness, to offer kind words and hope, for Hannah to be able to change her narrative, to move from a victim of circumstance, a minor character in her husband's story, to the hero of her own story. With Eli's blessing Hannah becomes a changed person, calmer, more self-assured and in control of her own life.4
We have such power over others, that a mocking word, a wrong assumption or our own ego-centricity can diminish another, enchain them and keep them from reaching their own potential. We wield this power so unthinkingly sometimes, as if it is nothing. We use cynicism, sarcasm, teasing and mockery to build ourselves up and the expense of another, using humour to mask the cruelty. We gossip behind people's backs, spreading poison among our communities. We criticise others to avoid looking inward, or looking Godward. It is rare that we take the time to really see, to really hear another, and yet when we do take the time to engage in this simple, profound act, we too might perform a miracle.
1 Barren, 21/03/21
2 1 Samuel 1:6
3 1 Samuel 1:14
4 1 Samuel 1:20-23