We can imagine that angelic apparitions such as we encounter in both readings today would make the journey of faith clearer and easier. We might long to be given clear instructions from angels as to how God’s saving plan will unfold in our lives, thinking that life would be much less complicated or demanding. Be careful what you ask for! Matters are seldom as simple as that – both in Biblical times and in our own. When the God of surprises enters our lives, it can disrupt and disturb our hopes, plans and dreams. The parents of Samson and John the Baptist desperately wanted children, and God responded to their deep longings, but not in the ways they might have imagined. Both Samson and John the Baptist will have critical roles to play, but their ministry will cost them their lives.
The end of the first reading describes how the spirit of the Lord began to stir in Samson. It is worth noting that the verb in Hebrew has a range of meanings – to stir, to move, and to disturb. Both Samson and John the Baptist will indeed be movers and shakers, but for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The road ahead will not be easy since rejection and danger will be constant companions. Both of them are Nazirites whose penitential and ascetical life will prepare them for the challenges that lie before them.
Where does that leave us then? More than anything else it means asking for the faith and openness to listen to the calls of the Spirit that come to us in times and ways we don’t expect, and having the courage to respond, especially when we do not know where the road will lead.
Fr. Chris Monaghan CP, lectures in the New Testament and is President of Yarra Theological Union. He is a member of the Passionist community of Holy Cross in Templestowe.