1 Samuel 1: 9-20
After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.
They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”
Responsorial: 2 Samuel 2: 1, 4-8
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor."
Mark 1: 21-28
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
If you have carried the cross of infertility or watched friends or loved ones on that journey, you understand the helplessness and desperation of Hannah’s prayer in the first reading today. Hannah had waited for years to conceive a child, at first expecting life and nature to run their standard course in her, and then watching in disappointment and confusion as those expectations were not fulfilled. She knew that only God could solve her problem, so she presented herself to the Lord in her vulnerability, even opening herself up to misjudgment, to throw herself on His mercy. Then, when she received encouragement from Eli, she chose to receive the word of hope and believe that God had heard her. So, when her prayer was answered, she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had seen the hand of the Divine work in her life. When she sings out her canticle, she comes from a place of knowing through and through that it was God who had made things right, that all power is truly in His hands.
The man in the Gospel was also powerless against the demons tormenting him, but he experienced the power of God when Jesus cast them out. The onlookers in the synagogue also noticed something different about Jesus. It was His authority that spoke to them even more than His words in themselves. All of a sudden, they saw in their midst someone who could face all those enemies they felt helpless against. He did not show them empty words, but demonstrated in His actions the will of God to heal and deliver.
Beyond infertility and demonic oppression, there are a host of problems we can face in this life that render us powerless. These sorts of problems bring us to our knees like Hannah, knowing that only the Lord can solve them. But the good news is, even though Jesus is not walking among us as He did two thousand years ago, He is still with us today. He has given us His presence in the Eucharist, we can still hear His words, and He still works in His Godly authority to set things right and to give us the strength to endure our trials with hope. If you are facing such a difficulty today, call out to the Lord in faith. Present yourself before Him, pour out your heart and have confidence that He hears you and has the power to work in your life. Then go in peace, knowing that the all-powerful God of the universe loves you, understands your life in all its complexity, and desires to work in you in His way and His timing. That way, when you see Him work, you can rejoice as Hannah did and testify to the power of God, who brings new life and victory to those who put their trust in Him.