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home : opinion : word of faith

1/15/2015 9:00:00 AM
WORD OF FAITH
Hello, it's God calling
BY REV. ROGER KARBAN


FROM A READING FOR JAN. 18, SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'[John] exclaimed, "Look; here is the lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him, and they followed Jesus. [Jesus] said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" He said, "Come and see...." - John 1:35-39

Those who have seen the movie "Simon Birch" remember how the title character is convinced that one day God's going to use him to accomplish something great.

"He's going to make me a hero," Simon tells his best friend - and, in the end, in spite of almost everyone ridiculing his belief that he's being called, he does something very heroic.

The original readers of our sacred Scriptures could identify with the boy's conviction of having a calling from God. Like Simon, they believed God had set them aside for greatness. Their feat probably wouldn't even make that evening's local news, but it would be something which, without God's help, they couldn't have pulled off. They listened for that call throughout their lives, always ready to jump into action at a moment's notice.

Of course, once Jesus' second-century-AD followers started to adopt a hierarchical structure in their communities, their expectation of receiving a divine call began to fritter away. More and more, people became convinced that only priests and bishops actually received such calls.

Misinterpreted
They even began to eisegete (interpret using their own ideas) the Gospel calls to discipleship, like the one in Sunday's Gospel passage (John 1:35-42), interpreting them as calls to the hierarchy. They were convinced Jesus wasn't calling His first followers simply to be other Christs, imitators of Himself; He was calling them to the clerical state.

Many people stopped hearing the calls God and the risen Jesus were giving them. They reasoned: "Such calls are for special people, not me." Yet God didn't stop calling just because people stopped listening. Knowing this is the first step in returning to the biblical experience of calls.

In Sunday's I Samuel (3b-10,19) reading, young Samuel had yet to discover that Yahweh calls people. After his Abbott and Costello "Are You Calling Me?" routine with Eli the priest, the boy takes his mentor's advice and answers Yahweh's next call with a simple, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

God expects God's people to be listeners. We can't get off the hook by pretending God's speaking to someone else, or not even calling at all.

What do you want?
Paul (I Cor 6:13c-15a,17-20) meets our feelings of unworthiness head-on. "Do you not know," he asks the Corinthian community, "that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?"

If God's Spirit is in us, then God can be expected to communicate with us. But we must stop focusing on ourselves. God's call always revolves around relating to others in a new way; it forces us to go out of ourselves and concentrate on those around us.

That's where Sunday's Gospel kicks in. Its key line is Jesus' question to the two disciples of John the Baptizer who were following Him: "What are you looking for?"

Spiritual author Jack Shea says, "Jesus of Nazareth was concerned with answering just three questions: What do you want out of life; where do you get it; how much does it cost?"

Our sacred authors agree. Unless we know what we're looking for, God's voice will never be able to break through the other voices which drown it out. If our life's purpose is just to tread water - to leave this earth exactly as we found it on the day we were born - then it might be best we don't hear God's call. It would just aggravate us.





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