Skip to comments.The Story of Eli: A Moral Tale on the Peril of Faltering Fatherhood and Unfaithful Priestly Ministry
Posted on 01/16/2014 2:24:04 AM PST by markomalley
In the First Book of Samuel which we are reading now in daily Mass, we see are rather stunning portrait of poor parenting and poor priestly leadership in the person of of High Priest of the Sanctuary at Shiloh, Eli. Consider this line from the Scriptures:
Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, Here I am. Samuel ran to Eli and said, Here I am. You called me.I did not call you, Eli said. Go back to sleep. ..At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. (1 Sam 3:3-5).
Now let me ask you, how could it be that Samuel, a young boy living in the temple of the Lord and under the foster parentage of the High Priest was not familiar with the Lord? Some may argue he is but a young boy. Still, he is old enough to speak with Eli, to hear and heed Elis instructions. Has Eli told him nothing of the Lord? It would seem so.
Ah, but you say, the text has indicated that Samuel knew nothing because the Lord had not yet revealed anything to him. The text seems to root the cause of his unfamiliarity in the Lord rather than Eli. But Eli is still without excuse for it remains true that God reveals himself to us not usually as a voice in the night, or some unusual Theophany. Rather, God reveals himself to us through parents, priests, religious and other elders. For a young and already talking Samuel to be unfamiliar with the Lord while living under the care of the High Priest supposedly ministering in the very House of The Lord is unconscionable. It is a dereliction of duty. Eli has failed thus far as a father and a priest.
Children should be taught of God from their first interactive moments. Among the first things they learn should be Bible stories and prayers. They should be made aware of and become familiar with the still small voice of God as he whispers his presence to them.
Perhaps you think I am being too hard on Eli or reading into the text a bit. Maybe Eli was a busy man being High Priest and all. Or perhaps I am just plain wrong and Eli was actually a good father figure for Samuel.
A Pattern But I do not think I am wrong nor am I being too harsh for poor parenting and poor priestly leadership are a pattern for Eli. Consider another story about the two priestly sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas:
Elis sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the LORD. Now it was the practice of the priests with the people that whenever anyone offered a sacrifice and while the meat was being boiled, the servant of the priest would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand. He would plunge it into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot, and the priest would take for himself whatever the fork brought up. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. But even before the fat was burned, the servant of the priest would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, Give the priest some meat to roast; he wont accept boiled meat from you, but only raw. If the man said to him, Let the fat be burned up first, and then take whatever you want, the servant would then answer, No, hand it over now; if you dont, Ill take it by force. This sin of the young men was very great in the LORDs sight, for they were treating the LORDs offering with contempt Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. So he said to them, Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the LORDs people. If a man sins against another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him? His sons, however, did not listen to their fathers rebuke, for it was the LORDs will to put them to death ..Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, This is what the LORD says: Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel? Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: those who despise me will be disdained. The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your fathers house, so that there will not be an old man in your family line And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to youthey will both die on the same day. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always. (1 Sam 2:selected verses)
The basic facts are these:
How has all this happened? Poor fatherhood and an unfaithful priestly ministry. In failing to raise his children in the fear of the Lord and in failing to punish wrong doing Eli has brought grave harm upon himself, his family and his sons. In addition, when Samuel was placed in his care he continued with his pattern of failing to preach the Lord and make Samuel familiar with him.
This is a moral tale for our times as well. How many young people today have not been raised in the reverential fear of the Lord, have not been raised to be familiar with the Lord, have not been properly disciplined by parents and trained in righteousness? How many of them have not been instructed in Gods ways and have been allowed to fall deep into sinful habits and patterns.
In the Church too some have not at times been willing to discipline where necessary. Sin is often not rebuked from our pulpits, children are poorly instructed in the faith. We celebrate compassion but sometimes to a fault where sin is tolerated and grows very serious in peoples lives.
Silence by many clergy and Church leaders in the face of serious sin can and is taken to be tacit approval of sin and has led to a widespread moral malaise. Disobedience in the clergy has sometimes been tolerated. Liturgical norms and the sacred liturgy have often been abused. And yes, as we sadly know there has been abusive and illicit sexual activity too.
Thank God there are signs of revival and renewal in many of these areas in the Church and in some of our families. But the story of Eli is an important moral tale for our times that God wants us to take serious our obligation to raise our children to know the Lord and walk in his ways. Through proper discipline and instruction we are summoned to have our children be familiar with the Lord at the very dawning of consciousness and reason. To fail in this regard is something God takes very seriously.
Thank God for good parents, clergy and religious who have done their very best in this regard. Hopefully the story of Eli for most of us is simply an encouragement to do what we are already doing. But for those who fail to take seriously their obligations in this regard it should be seen for what it also is: a warning.
Since this was a rather heavy post, perhaps youll allow me to post a humorous video. As I have pointed out, Parents and priests should teach Children to pray. But this video by Tim Hawkins tells us what to avoid when teaching children to pray. In a phrase: Dont be spooky!
Msgr Pope ping
God Bless Msgr. Pope!
Msgr. Pope always rings the bell.
Reading 1 1 Sm 4:1-11
The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel.
Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer,
while the Philistines camped at Aphek.
The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel.
After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines,
who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield.
When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said,
“Why has the LORD permitted us to be defeated today
by the Philistines?
Let us fetch the ark of the LORD from Shiloh
that it may go into battle among us
and save us from the grasp of our enemies.”
So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there
the ark of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim.
The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God.
When the ark of the LORD arrived in the camp,
all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded.
The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked,
“What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?”
On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp,
the Philistines were frightened.
They said, “Gods have come to their camp.”
They said also, “Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us!
Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?
These are the gods that struck the Egyptians
with various plagues and with pestilence.
Take courage and be manly, Philistines;
otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews,
as they were your slaves.
So fight manfully!”
The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated;
every man fled to his own tent.
It was a disastrous defeat,
in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.
The ark of God was captured,
and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.
A prophetic voice. Makes me reflect on my own shortcomings as well as those of false priests.