Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time: Answering His Call
I want to begin today by talking about Caller ID and Voice mail. We all use both these advancements in technology to see who is calling us and then decide whether to answer the call or send it to voice mail. I might be overstating it to say that these are advancements in technology. I have a friend who never answers his phone. Every call goes to voice mail. It drives me crazy. Actually, I’m not sure if he does this to all his calls or just to mine.
We all have caller ID and Voice Mail in our spiritual lives. All of us receive calls from the Lord. Sometimes, like the disciples in the Gospel, we recognize the Lord’s call and follow Him. Sometimes, we just send God’s call to voice mail. We might be afraid of what He is going to ask of us. He might demand something more than we want to do or give. Maybe, we’d rather deal with Him later. Maybe if we ignore the call enough, we won’t have to deal with it at all.
And that is the sad truth of our reaction to God’s call. If we don’t respond like Samuel in today’s first reading, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” we might miss our opportunity to do His will. Maybe the Lord wants us to lead someone who is estranged from Him closer to Him with our kindness. Maybe the Lord is calling us to enter into the path of life where we can best serve Him. God’s calls have an impact both on our lives as well as on the lives of other people, even people we might not know.
This Sunday is the perfect time to discuss the call of God that we receive in our lives, our vocation. Usually, when we hear the concept of vocation we think of those who are called to become priests or to enter religious life as sisters or brothers. These are certainly vocations from God, but they are not the only call that God gives.
Many of you are married or are hoping to be married someday. How do you view marriage? If it is just a romantic matter legalized by the state and celebrated in a Church, then you are missing an essential part of the sacrament of marriage. Marriage is a vocation, a call from God to greatness by embracing a life of sacrificial love. If you are married, you need to pray to God that you will be a good Catholic wife or husband, concerned with giving love. Husbands and wives also need to pray for each other. In marriage, it takes two of you to push the receive button on the phone and answer God’s call.
You young folk are full of wonderful romantic ideals and ideas. You date this guy or this girl, and you look forward to a time when there will only be one person in your lives. This is all great. But do you ever pray for that special person, even if you do not know who that person is yet? Do you ever pray that God help you recognize the person that you can best make a Christian life with? Pray that when God calls you to love as he loves, you will answer this call, not send it to voice mail.
Many are involved in careers. Why do we do what we do? To make money? It is perfectly correct to receive reward for our labor and to enjoy this reward, but if the goal of our lives is to be Squidward Tentacles (that’s a Sponge Bob reference for you older people), or Scrooge McDuck (and that’s a Donald Duck reference for you young folks), then we will have nothing to take with us when we die. God did not create us for money. God created us for love. We often recognize a call from Him to use our funds for others. It’s easy to send this call to voice mail, but then we will miss an opportunity to do God’s will, an opportunity to love.
Sometimes we miss God’s call because we allow ourselves to become too busy to answer it. We get so busy in the things that we are doing that we forget why we are doing them. God calls us, but we send his call to voice mail. “We’ll get back to him later when we have more time,” we say. Only, later may never come.
John Henry Newman felt God’s call to him in life and reflected on it with a beautiful prayer. But first, who was John Henry Newman? He was a scholar and an intellectual who lived in England from 1801 to 1890. He dabbled with atheism early in his life, but then God called. He couldn’t put him off. He sought God in religion, in the Church of England, or Anglican Church. He became an Anglican priest and continued his studies of Christianity at Oxford University. In 1845 he wrote that as he studied more and more the writings of the early Fathers of the Church, he was convinced that the Catholics were the closest followers of Christianity in its original form. He had a deep respect for the Anglican Church, but he heard God calling him to become a Catholic. This was an extremely difficult decision that affected his life in every way possible. He could no longer teach at Oxford. He could no longer preach in the Anglican Churches. He was a patriotic Englishman who was embracing those people whom he had referred to as “our traditional enemies.” But God was calling. John Henry Newman was not about to send Him to voice mail. He became a Catholic and led the movement of Anglican scholars to Catholicism called the Oxford Movement. He became a Roman Catholic priest, and eventually was even made a cardinal. On September 19, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal Newman.
Blessed Cardinal Newman wrote this beautiful prayer which is a reflection not just on his life but on all our lives:
“God has created me for some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have a mission. I may never know exactly what that mission is in this life. I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in a great work. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good. I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, even if I do not realize what I am doing. But, if I keep His commandments, I will serve Him in my calling.”
What is your calling? What is my calling? The general answer to those questions is simple: we are called to know, love and serve God. But how? How are each of us called to serve God? The particular answer to this question is a mystery, the mystery of our lives. The mystery enfolds every time we respond to God’s call. We come before the Lord today and ask for the grace to be attune to God’s call in our lives. And we pray for the courage to answer His call rather than send it to voice mail. We pray that when He calls we will respond, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”