Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ears Open to Obedience You Gave Me

The readings for the second Sunday in Ordinary time are:

  • 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19
  • Psalm 40:2+4, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10
  • 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20
  • John 1:35-42

One effect of cell phones is that we tend to get calls in strange places -- most of us have our favorite story of where we took a call. As a corporate systems programmer, I spend a certain amount of time "on call". I have been called or paged on a plane waiting for takeoff, in the middle of the night at home, in the bathroom, and, of course, in church. (And yes, I do set my phone on silent before Mass starts.) We associate "call" as something you get on the phone, not something that comes from God. This other kind of call is what we hear about in today's readings.

Last week we celebrated the Epiphany of the Lord, the transforming revelation of just who Jesus is, a revelation that changes how we see ourselves and the world around us. This week we hear about how we must respond to that revelation, that call. There is the familiar story of the call of Samuel to be a prophet, and the call of Andrew and Peter to follow Jesus. There are certain common factors in all these stories that teaches us about how we can recognize and respond to the call from God.

Samuel hears God calling him by name in the silence of the night, but cannot understand it without Eli's help. And in the Gospel lesson, we hear of some of the first to follow Jesus:
John was standing with two of his disciples,and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,"Behold, the Lamb of God." The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,"What are you looking for?"They said to him, "Rabbi" - which translated means Teacher -,"where are you staying?"He said to them, "Come, and you will see."So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,and they stayed with him that day.

It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.He first found his own brother Simon and told him,"We have found the Messiah" - which is translated Christ - Then he brought him to Jesus.Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John;you will be called Cephas" - which is translated Peter.
From this we can see that first, a call often comes through another person, or can only be understood with another's help. This kind of call requires response - are called to do something to get closer to God. And response to the call of God transforms us, makes us new people, with new names.

You can spend your whole life waiting for that still small voice that Samuel heard. Some people never make a decision, never answer that call. Others, eager to hear something, end up hearing only the reflection of their own desires. In my own life, God has ususally called to me through people I trust. This has included teachers, pastors, friends, and most importantly, my wife, Marilee. My willingness to move forward on the diaconate comes chiefly from the encouragement of one good friend, and my wife's support. When you think such a call comes to you, share it with someone, and you may find out much more than you expect.

God calls us into encounter with Himself. In both of the stories in today's Gospel, Andrew, then Simon, are called to see and talk directly with Jesus, and to journey on with Him. God calls us expecting a direct response.

Those who make that response, who answer that call, will never be the same again. Samuel became a prophet: "the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect." Andrew's allegiance changed from John the Baptist to Jesus, and this change was so profound that he had to go get his brother Simon, and bring him to Jesus. The sign of transformation for Simon was Jesus renaming him Cephas, or Peter. As we learned last week, knowlege of who Jesus really is changes everything.

Each of us as Christians have been, in Baptism, called by God. But it does not stop there. We who have ears to perceive will percieve, with the help of others, that God continues to call us to Himself, to change us into the persons we were created to be, to give us back our own real names.

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