At first reading, we might mislabel Hannah as the ungrateful, entitled wife. True, her husband’s second wife gives her a hard time, but she is the favorite. Receiving double the portion she deserves, Hannah is blessed to have a generous husband who pacifies her amidst her tears, “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” What more can a person desire?
However, Hannah’s inability to bear a son jeopardizes her life and future; she must depend on her husband’s generosity for her daily needs. What will happen when Elkanah dies? We know that when the time comes, Hannah could not trust Peninnah to be partial to her husband’s favored childless wife. What Hannah needs to hear from Elkanah is this: “You are worth more to me than ten sons.” But this isn’t the case. Sonless, Hannah can turn from blessed to homeless in the blink of an eye.
So Hannah looks to the Lord for help. And Eli, the servant of God who should have been able to look past her condition, quickly brings judgment. The priest labels Hannah a drunkard and advises her to keep away from wine despite there being no bottle in sight! After listening to Hannah’s story of anxiety and prayer, Eli blesses Hannah and her petitions.
Like many today, Hannah is a victim of systemic injustice. How many times have we looked at a person experiencing homelessness and thought, What a bum! Or perhaps we have smirked at victims of abuse saying, “It’s her fault; she didn’t fight back!” God’s ways are not so. God commands that we look beyond each person’s condition and act in kindness toward people’s needs. Then we shall find favor in God’s sight.
We look to God as we pray to become catalysts of transformation and justice in our communities.
The inability to have a child brings pain to many today, and this was equally true in ancient times. In that context it was sometimes even worse, for Peninnah openly ridicules Hannah for being unable to conceive. But as a result of her desperate, heartfelt prayer, God blesses Hannah with a son, Samuel, who will become a powerful prophet. Hannah then rejoices in a God who exalts the poor and needy. Hannah provides an example of the boldness with which we also can approach God now because of Christ’s sacrifice. The destruction of Jerusalem is the focus of the passage in Mark. Jesus here predicts the demolition of the Temple and the city, which the Romans executed in 70 ce.
• Read 1 Samuel 1:4-20. When have you felt trapped by circumstances not of your own making? How did the situation resolve itself?
• Read 1 Samuel 2:1-10. When has a situation in your life changed because you persisted in prayer? What did that experience teach you?
• Read Hebrews 10:11-25. Do you perceive God’s remembering your sin no more as encouragement or license? Why?
• Read Mark 13:1-8. What signs make you anxious about the world’s future? What helps you rest easier?
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