Answer the Call or Send it to Voice Mail?
I want to begin today by discussing my cell phone. My cell phone is small; it fits neatly in my shirt pocket. It does all sorts of neat things like contain my schedule, all my addresses, the names, addresses and phone numbers of all 9,500 parishioners; it has a calculator, it connects to the internet, it gets my email, and I can even play solitaire on it. Or yes, my cell phone dopes something else too: it makes and receives phone calls.
Now when a call comes in to this phone I have some options. If the call is from someone in my address book, the phone will show me the person’s name, maybe even the person’s picture, so I can decide if I want to speak to that person........or not. If the person making the call is not in my address book, usually a number will appear. Then I wonder if it is really from someone I want to speak to. It could be a long lost friend, or someone who has changed their number. Anyway, with my cell phone I can decide if I want to speak to someone or send them to voice mail.
All of us receive calls from the Lord. The question becomes: Do we recognize his number? Sometimes, like the disciples in the Gospel, we recognize the Lord and follow. Sometimes, we don’t recognize His number and can’t be bothered with answering. Often, though, 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 on our lives as well as on the lives of people we might not even 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. But marriage takes two people. 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 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?
Many are involved in careers. Why do you do what you do? To make money? That’s OK, but if that is the goal of your lives, you certainly will have nothing to take with you. There is a reason why they don’t put a luggage rack on a hearse. Do you do what you do to support your family? That is a higher goal because sacrificial love will join you in the next life.
The drive to make a lot of money has hurt vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the United States. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are down in the United States for various reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the priest, sister or brother, has to give up the thought of making a large salary and living in luxury. Many times a young man with a lot of intelligence will consider the priesthood and mention this to people he respects. Sadly, sometimes their response is: “But you can become a lawyer or a doctor.” Now these are great vocations, and we need good and honest lawyers and doctors dedicated to helping people. But if a person’s motivation to become a lawyer or a doctor is to make a lot of money, that person will not be a very good lawyer or doctor. And if an intelligent young person walks away from a call to be a priest, brother or sister, in order to make money, well, it might be hard to get God’s call off their voice mail. Throughout their lives the will be wondering: “What if I had given it a go? What difference could I have made in how many lives?”
John Henry Cardinal Newman considered God’s call to him in life and reflected on it with a beautiful prayer. But first, who was Cardinal Newman? Cardinal Newman was an intellectual who lived in England from 1801 to 1890. He dabbled with atheism early in his life, but then sought God in religion, in the Church of England, or Anglican Church. In 1845 he wrote that as he studied more and more about Catholicism, he realized that everything they said was true. He became a Catholic and led a movement of Anglican scholars to Catholicism called the Oxford Movement. He became a Roman Catholic priest, and eventually was even made a cardinal. Last April Pope Benedict XVI announced that Cardinal Newman will be beatified sometime this year. Cardinal Newman wrote this beautiful reflection:
“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 serve God. The particular answer to these questions is a mystery, the mystery of our lives. We pray today for the grace and courage to be attune to God’s call in our lives. We pray for the courage to have an orientation to the Lord throughout our lives, so that when He calls we will respond, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”