Let’s catch up on the first readings from the First Book of Samuel. The Israelites under Joshua took over the Promised Land sometime around the year 1200 B.C.
To lodge the Ark of the Covenant, they built a shrine at a wooded place called Shiloh, eighty miles north of Jerusalem; and they entrusted the Ark to a family of priests.
Our story opens a hundred years later, around the year 1100 B.C. , when Shiloh was in the care of the old priest named Eli, who sat on a bench at the shrine’s door, watching people come and go.
An Ephraimite man named Elkanah made yearly visits to the shrine with his wife Peninnah, the mother of his children, and they were accompanied by a second wife Hannah, who was barren.
On one occasion Hannah came alone before the Ark, praying for a son. To hide her prayer from detractors, Hannah moved her lips without making a sound. But old Eli, from his perch, never having seen anyone pray that way, took Hannah to be drunk, and he scolded her.
Breaking down, Hannah told Eli the substance of her prayer, and he promised her a son before her next visit. Hannah named her boy Samuel, meaning “God has listened;” and when she had weaned him, she brought Samuel to Shiloh to serve under Eli.
For each year’s visit to Shiloh Hannah wove a new robe for Samuel, with each of them a size bigger.
One night when Samuel was sleeping before the Ark, God called him. At the first and second call Samuel thought that it had been Eli calling him, but on the third summons Eli released that the Lord was calling Samuel. And from that time on, his answer always was, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”