Our liturgical readings this week and next revolve around calls from God. Though each passage approaches God's call from a unique angle, there are similarities in the narratives which directly apply to our everyday lives. One especially stands out in Sunday's readings.
Over the years, I've learned never to tell a flea market dealer I want to buy an unpriced item. Only the most naive make such a foolish mistake. Flea market experts make certain all the costs are known before they commit to anything.
Yet the opposite is true when it comes to God's call. Seasoned disciples immediately tell God "yes!" even before they know the price. Novices usually hesitate, trying to discern the terms, determining the cost. This insight is part of what they author expects us to take from the first reading (I Sam 3: 3-10, 19).
Who is it?
Initially, Samuel, the novice, must learn how to distinguish Yahweh's voice from other voices. At first, he and Eli, the shrine's priest, go through a primitive Abbott and Costello routine, until the old man realizes Yahweh's calling the boy. He then teaches him the proper response: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!" In other words: "I'm here, ready to do whatever you wish!"
Because most of us are also unaccustomed to responding to Yahweh's voice, we miss some of what our biblical authors are trying to convey in their "call narratives." In almost every instance, they're encouraging their readers -- people of faith -- to give themselves immediately and completely over to God, even before calculating the cost.
Paul especially reminds his Corinthian community of the hidden costs which are part of giving one's self to Jesus (I Cor 6: 13-15, 17-20).
Since our liturgical readings frequently are "chopped up," it's sometimes difficult to discover the author's original meaning. For instance, who would surmise in this passage that Paul is trying to give his followers an argument against cavorting with prostitutes? Only when we restore the omitted verses is that point clear.
Paul reasons from three basic Christian beliefs: first, individuals who give themselves to Christ become part of Christ's body; second, whether they know it or not, they also become one with all who are joined to Christ; third, people who engage in sexual intercourse become one with one another.
Some in the Corinthian community don't understand how saying, "yes!" to Jesus interlocks these three principles. As followers of Jesus, they actually make Jesus one with anyone with whom they become one. That's why Paul asks, "Shall I then take Christ's members and make them the members of a prostitute?"
Paul sums up the implications of giving one's self to Jesus in the famous statement, "You are not your own." Agreeing to join with Jesus changes everything, even the way we look at sexual relationships.
That's why, in the Gospel (Jn 1: 35-42), Jesus changes Simon's name immediately after he decides to follow Jesus. "You are Simon, son of John," Jesus proclaims; "your name shall be Cephas." A scriptural person's name always stands for the personality symbolized by the name. So a name change is a sign the individual has become a new person, acquired a new personality.
Our biblical authors agree: We never respond to a call from God without eventually experiencing a change in who we are. At the moment we give ourselves to God, we have no idea what sort of new person we'll become. That's part of the unmarked price we're expected to pay when we tell God we're willing to be a disciple.
The problem is that many of us don't trust God enough to agree to become someone new. We hesitate because we don't know precisely who we'll be, and we never experience the terrific personality God has planned for us.