There is a beautiful and deeply expressive phrase that appears at important times in the Hebrew scriptures: Hineni, Here I am!
Abraham says, “Hineni, here I am” to God when God calls him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (Gen. 22:1).
Moses answers God with hineni when called forth at the time of the burning bush (Exod.3:4).
Isaiah answers God’s question “Whom am I to send?” with a ready “Hineni, send me.” (Is. 6:8).
And when God calls the boy, Samuel, three times as if to teach him at his young age what it is to listen to the voice of God, Samuel answers: “Hineni, here I am“…but believing it is Eli who has called goes to him (1 Sam 3). Eli then teaches the boy that if he hears God a fourth time, he should say: “Speak, Lord, I am listening!”
These four examples are examples of a human being responding to God’s call; however we also find God saying “Hineni, I am here” to Isaiah, called to remove oppression, false accusations and malicious speech from among the people (58:9)…as well as to Moses, wondering how and why God would call him to be leader of God’s sometimes recalcitrant people out of Egypt (Exod. 3:12).
Is God reassuring Isaiah and Moses, as if to say “Here I am; I want to be with you in these difficult situations”? I believe so. And how many times have we heard something similar in the Psalms, Mass texts, advice given us by a friend or a surprising, even negative, situation? Hineni, I am here; I want to be with you! How we need to hear and believe that God is with us in hard times like these and joyful ones, too, when it is easy to say, “Thanks, Lord!” What about our personal times of loneliness or rejection, in the calls to help another when we feel so inadequate, lacking in time or fearful and doubtful above all, and weakness is all we know? Hineni, I am with you!
For me in these ominous times of COVID, violence, impeachment, and transmission of leadership, the Mass texts often reveal the hineni of God and the hineni of persons who, e.g. when four men in today’s Gospel (1/15/21, Mk. 2: 1–12), open a roof to let down a paralytic into the presence of Jesus. The Collect, as well, is instructive and could not be better chosen; listen to the Church pray: “Attend to the pleas of your people with heavenly care, O Lord, that we may see what must be done and gain strength to do what we have seen”…is it a paralytic, perhaps? Or a homeless person? An accident victim? A lonely or bullied child? Or might it be a husband or wife, a sister or a next door neighbor? We can be hineni…I am here for you! and you! and you! and you!
Renée Domeier, OSB
Photo: Frosty trees at Saint Scholastica Convent, taken by Sister Marina Schlangen