How to Hear Christ's Call
User's Guide to Sunday, Jan. 15.
Sunday, Jan. 15, is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42
Everybody loves dramatic stories of God’s call. But, ordinarily, when God calls us, it happens in the course of an ordinary life: in church, in our workplace, in our families. That’s how we each felt “called” to our Christian vocations.
Don’t get us wrong. There are many dramatic callings in Scripture: The shepherd boy faces the giant and vanquishes him. An angel appears to Mary and Joseph to tell them the Messiah will come into their lives. Isaiah is taken up to heaven and his lips touched with burning coal. St. Paul is knocked off his horse by a blinding light.
Dramatic callings aren’t a thing of the past, either. We all have friends who experienced sudden conversions at Marian apparition sites or life-changing experiences at World Youth Day or other youth conferences.
But we are more likely to come across God’s call in exactly the ways you would expect.
April experienced God in a powerful way at her first Communion — when the priest raised the Host above the altar, she was struck with the truth of his presence and the fact that he was truly there with her. Her faith and her commitment to a life of following Christ in the Church all began right there, too. The “call” was reinforced by her family and has hardly wavered since.
Tom had a quiet experience, alone, much later. A year before transferring to a Catholic college program that would change his life, he sat in a quiet chapel at the University of Arizona and was filled with longing about something that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. It was only later he realized it was the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
These are the kind of quiet calls we usually get: less extraordinary, but just as meaningful. They are also the kinds of calls recounted in today’s readings.
Samuel is called at the Temple (which is actually also his workplace. He is sleeping in the Temple, which probably means he was working the nightshift as keeper of the Temple flame). His encounter with the Lord has two important characteristics. First, the Lord’s communication with Samuel consists of his name, and, second, when Samuel “meets” the Lord, this is manifested mostly by his becoming aware of God’s presence.
We, too, are called by name by God in church — in our baptism. But just as importantly, in the quiet of prayer and worship, we realize we are “known” by the Lord. It’s the real “me” that is sitting in church, encountering Christ, away (we hope) from every consideration of self-importance. It is that “me” that God calls to himself. We don’t see him physically in church; rather, he “reveals his presence” in the tabernacle.
The apostles are also called in a very natural, almost casual way. (Even Peter, in today’s Gospel, is renamed “Rock” almost as an afterthought. We know that, later, the Lord conferred this title in a more significant way, but it is telling that Christ called him “Cephas” or “Peter” from the beginning. )
The chief characteristic of this encounter is the docile open-mindedness of the apostles.
It begins when Andrew and another apostle hear John the Baptist call Jesus “the Lamb of God.” At this simple (and theologically profound) testimony, they follow him.
Then, in a beautifully simple dialogue, Jesus gains his great first apostles by asking them, “What are you looking for?”
He says the same thing to us: What do we want out of life?
They had the faith to see that they didn’t know what they were looking for — but that, whatever it was, he was the one to show it to them. They answer, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
We need to realize that our answer should be the same as theirs. What are we looking for? We should be looking for the things the Lord has planned for us.
Then Jesus answers, “Come, and you will see.” This is what the Lord said to April at her first Communion and to Tom in college. We didn’t know what we would see, but we started to know where we had to go.
When he says it to us today, we need to have the faith to go where he leads and find what he has to offer.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.