Answering His call

All biblical calls are rooted in Abrahams call in Sundays first reading (Gen 12: 1-4). That passage is from the Yahwistic document, the oldest of the four ancient sources a redactor employed to construct Scriptures first five books. Its been part of our deposit of faith for 3,000 years.

Though we usually concentrate on Yahwehs promises of a country and a blessing, its important to notice that the author begins the narrative with Gods command, Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and your fathers house to a land that I will show you! and ends with the remark, Abram went as Yahweh directed him.

Biblical calls always revolve around movement: exchanging a position of security for a place of insecurity, not even knowing the final destination when the journey starts. The only guarantee the recipients of such calls are given is the conviction that God is with them as they make their way down the road God points out.

Guarantees?

My Roman Catholic religion offers me terrific security. Not only do I belong to the true Church, but the hierarchical structure the Church developed through the centuries guarantees me salvation as long as I obey its every command. As a child, I asked one of my teachers: Do I have to do whatever the priest tells me, even if I think its wrong? Her answer provided eternal security: Yes! If its wrong, hell go to hell or purgatory, not you!

Even when we seminarians were trying to discern if we had a call to celibate, priestly ministry, our spiritual directors assured us, If your bishop gives you a formal call to priesthood you can be certain Gods calling you.

We never find this kind of faith-security in Scripture. There, only God calls and only God offers security. There are no middle-men.

Rev. John McKenzie wrote a Critic magazine column 30 years ago titled, Obedience, Substitute for Virtue. In it, the late Scripture scholar explored the consequences of trading the insecurity which comes from obeying Gods calls for the security which comes from obeying the representatives of a Church structure.

He reminded his readers that all followers of Jesus are continually called to travel down the virtuous road of love and compassion. He asked, Can it ever be Christian morality to support a way of life in which love and compassion become disposable virtues?

Transformation

The author of II Timothy encourages his readers to explore this road of virtue when he writes, Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life (2 Tim 1:8-10).

In the same way, Matthews transfiguration narrative makes sense only if we pay close attention to the last line. Tell this vision to no one, Jesus charges His disciples, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.

The insights which Matthew puts into words in this passage must be a constant in every Christians mind. Throughout our lives, we trust that our faith will one day transform us. Yet, our resurrection will take place only if we join Jesus in dying by offering love and compassion to all around us.

In the midst of our Churchs present hierarchical structure and our obedience to every dictate of that structure, Jesus is still calling us to place our security in Him. Hes calling us to step onto the insecure, dying path of loving those who step into our lives.

Perhaps we should spend much more time wrestling with Jesus personal call to us than we do wrestling with Church structures. After all, our response to that call will be the only thing on which Jesus will examine us.

(02-21-02)