Accepting the Call of God

01-14-2018Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We do not realize that God, in fact, summoned the leaders of Israel in various and dramatic ways. Think about it: Moses was summoned for service from a burning bush and also Isaiah's vocation was announced in a fiery vision in the temple. In our Old Testament passage, we learn of a quiet invitation which really is within our normal way of life. From the earlier parts of the Book of Samuel, we know that Samuel's mother, Hannah, had stormed heaven for a child. God, indeed, answered her prayers and in due time she bore a son named Samuel. What Hannah could not have known was that Samuel's birth, which was so special to Hannah and everyone, was also a special gift to Israel.

Samuel grew up in the temple precincts in Shiloh, where the ark of the covenant is enshrined. In the darkness and quiet of a night, he hears a voice calling. Three times he gets up to find out if his mentor, Eli, has called, and three times he is sent back to his bed. Note that young Samuel is new to this business of conversing with God, because at that time "revelation of the Lord was uncommon and vision infrequent." Finally Samuel understands that he is actually being called by God. The young man obeys and becomes, as it turns out, the first prophet during the time of the monarchy. Samuel's willing and attentive spirit sets the theme for today's meditation on those who heed God's call.

Today's Gospel flows from the story of the baptism of Jesus. Remember the Gospel writer John does not record the baptism of Jesus at all, but he refers to it here. Jesus is called the Lamb of God. We are not aware that the Aramaic word talya can mean both "lamb" and "servant." John as a gospel writer takes advantage of these ambiguities of meanings. In his gospel, he has John the Baptizer point out Jesus, and described him as the servant of God. This made the disciples rush after Jesus. When they caught up with Jesus and he asked them what they were searching for, they fumbled their words. They timidly asked him where he was staying. To the disciples' question, Jesus replied, "Come and see." Which really meant "Come and dwell where I do; come and know what or who I know." And behold, they did. The disciples heard the call and followed. As a result, Andrew rushed off to tell his brother Simon, and confessed that he found the Messiah. Simon, too, came running, and his response to the call brought him a new name, "Peter," the rock. We know that Peter would soon become the foundation of God's new people, the Church.

Paul, our number one letter writer, speaks of the glory found in all who respond to the call from God. As we are followers of Christ, we are like Christ in body and spirit. We are no longer our own; we have thrown our lot in with others. We are all one in Christ.

To accept the call of God means more than accepting a personal or private commission. It, in fact, means accepting a communal or "social" life, a life of solidarity with others. We can always test whether we are really responding to that call by asking ourselves, "When God calls me, does God find me as a person committed to his community of faith, or just to myself?" The person who is one in Christ is not marked by solitary demands for singular selffulfillment. It does not always follow that taking care of oneself first leads to caring for others. We are called to something greater than our individual self, and in obeying that call we are summoned beyond ourselves, to be servants like Jesus Christ. We are committed to a larger mission; it is less about us and more about Jesus.