Written by Sr. Rosemary, O.P.
1st OT, Hannah, 2020 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011420.cfm
Today we heard about a woman of the Old Testament named Hannah who longed and lamented for a child, but despite her many tears and heartfelt prayers, she remained barren. Hannah was married to Elkanah who had two wives: Peninnah whose name means pearl, and Hannah whose name means grace. Peninnah was able to bear many children and gloated in that fact to Hannah. Peninnah became an adversary to Hannah, provoking her and making her fret (I Sam 1:6).
But her husband loved Hannah more than Peninnah, and because Hannah was childless, which was socially very unacceptable then, he tried to make it up to her with his loving attention. He was a good man who grieved with his wife.
What we hear today is Hannah pouring out her heart to God in prayer. She made a vow:
“O LORD of hosts,
if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid,
and remember me,
and not forget your handmaid,
but will give to your handmaid a man child,
then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life…”
Hannah was so wanting a child that she was even willing to dedicate her child to God. What that meant was that she would bare a son, raise him until he was 12, then give him to the house of God for service. She would only see him after that once a year when they came to the Temple for the offerings. Think of how difficult that would be for any mother to do.
Meanwhile, Eli, the priest, sees Hannah and comes over to her supposing she is drunk when she is actually praying in extreme sorrow. Eli prays for her peace and asks God to grant her request. She leaves hopeful.
Hannah did have a son and named him Samuel. Samuel became the great prophet and judge of Israel who restored law, order, and regular religious worship in the people. We will hear about this great Samuel in the rest of this week’s readings.
Our responsorial psalm today is Hannah’s beautiful prayer of thanksgiving to God, which, as you may have noticed, bears a striking resemblance to Mary’s Magnificat. Indeed, Hannah’s prayer was the model for Mary’s prayer.
Hannah was a marvelous woman of faith and we can learn many things from her, not the least of which is to wait actively, patiently, prayerfully and thankfully. For Hannah, God gave her a child and eventually, 3 more sons and 2 daughters. (1Samuel 2:21)
For us, we have in Christ the hope of glory, redemption, reconciliation, the power of God in our lives now, and much more. Let us praise God with the same enthusiasm as Hannah, for indeed, God is well deserving of our prayer and praise for all that God has done for us.