In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” betrayal and double-dealing leave the main character in an emotional free fall. Reality itself seems turned on its head. The most trustworthy character is a ghost, while at the same time, dear friends serve as spies. Nothing is as it seems, and Hamlet spends most of the play looking for truth, looking for solid ground to stand upon. Stumbling in darkness and confusion, he has a moment of clarity in the final act. He remarks to his friend Horatio, “there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow...the readiness is all.” Here, he makes reference to the Gospel of Matthew (10:29). It hints at an interior development for Hamlet. He has surrendered himself to God’s will. Still in the dark, still in confusion, he nonetheless finds the solution in God. He is his rock. Believing in this special providence, all that is required is a readiness to accept it.
Readiness is a theme in this Sunday’s readings. The young Samuel hears the voice of God calling him in the night. But “at that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord.” He believes the voice is that of Eli, and he runs to respond to his call. After a few misfires, Samuel learns that this is the voice of the Lord. On the third try, Samuel responds, “speak, for your servant is listening.” Despite the late hour, and despite his lack of familiarity with God, Samuel proves himself a ready servant. That readiness will be fruitful throughout his life.
The two disciples in this Sunday’s Gospel are also examples of readiness. Originally following John the Baptist, they hear him say of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” At that simple phrase, they turn to follow Jesus instead. They were expectant, they were ready for his appearance. They did not hesitate to go after him once they found him. Notice too, they are not even sure what they want. Jesus asks, “what are you looking for?” They don’t have an answer. They simply ask to stay with him a while. Like Hamlet, they lack a clear vision. But also like Hamlet, they know by trusting him, they will find their way to truth.
All of us, on occasion, find ourselves in the dark. At times, it can feel as though our world is falling apart. There is confusion, worry and doubt. In those times, we need openness to the will of God. Though we may not understand how it will all work out, we need faith in his will. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow, “so do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matt 10:31). The readiness is all.