That Persistent Call
I occasionally like to joke about the deficiencies of my seminary training. As I am tending to the needs of a 100-year-old Church, it seems that a course in boiler repair and roofing would have been more useful than learning how to define and discuss the mystery of the Holy Trinity. That being said there is one area of my formation for which I am very grateful and that is the learning and understanding I received around the role of God’s call in my life.
I grew up in a Christian family so the idea of a call from God was not new to me but I had the understanding of what that meant all wrong. I believed that doing something for God was a matter of my own initiative. For example, when it came to deciding to become a priest, I looked around and saw that there was a need and that I had some talents that might be useful so I chose to do something about it. That, “doing something about it” certainly is part of the call but that is not where it starts.
In the first reading today we hear about the call of the prophet Samuel. Samuel would go on to play an important role in the history of Israel but today we meet him first as a young boy. We are told that Samuel was asleep in the temple when he heard the Word of God calling to him. But Samuel did not know that it was the Word of God. Despite the fact that he was sleeping in a holy place and that he tended to a priest of the Lord, Samuel did not know the Lord. It was God who came calling him first.
A call from God is first and foremost God’s initiative. Like Samuel we are surrounded by God’s presence whether it is the beauty of nature or in the people that we love or the joys that give our lives meaning, the signs of God’s presence are all around us.
Like Samuel we hear the Lord’s voice calling to us whether it is the tug in our heart or the still, gentle voice in the quietness of our contemplation. It is that sense in our hearts that there is more to this life then just what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears. But we would not be able to know that this was God until that was revealed to us.
For Samuel that revelation was facilitated by his mentor Eli who told Samuel about the Lord and instructed him to open his heart to God’s will. For us, coming to an understanding of our call begins with our baptism. Our parents and godparents take on the responsibility of sharing with us their faith and their knowledge of God. As we get older, our teachers at school and at Church will continue to form that understanding of who God is.
We awaken to the call of God, we begin to understand who God is and what God is asking of us and then… Then we choose to act and do something about it.
This call from God is not reserved for Prophets or Priests. It is for all of us. This call is Universal in the way that God is calling everyone to knowledge of Him. The call is also personal in that each unique person will hear it in the way that God intends for them. It is also persistent. It will not stop until we attend to the sound of God’s voice.
The understanding of God’s call changed my understanding of my vocation. Being a priest is not something that I just decided to do. It something that God has asked of me and my part is to respond with my life as best as I can. Knowing that God has called me, a knowledge which was confirmed at my ordination, I can be confident that God will provide me with what I need to be a good priest, provided I continue to listen and respond through personal prayer and spiritual direction.
What is God asking of you?