1SAMUEL 3:3-10, 19; PSALM 39; 1CORINTHIANS 6:13-15, 17-20; JOHN 1:35-42
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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:
Understanding God’s Call
“The Call of God” is the central theme of today’s readings. The first reading speaks of the call of Samuel. Samuel was with Eli, at the Temple in Shiloh when God called him. In the second reading St Paul speaks of our call to holiness. He says “Brethren: The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord”. Finally the gospel reading narrates the call of the first disciples of Jesus Christ. In the Bible, the word “call” is used most often to refer to God’s initiative to bring people to Christ and to participate in his redemptive work in the world. So, God calls man in order to save him and to equally make him an instrument of salvation to his fellows.
Call is one of the many biblical terms that are usually misinterpreted. People hear echo or see themselves given invitation card in a dream and they term it a call. Some regard hallucination as a call to special service; while other who suffer from high fever and see a very beautiful city claimed to have been to heaven. A call is
The Word of God describes several kinds of calls; but then, they are being categorized into three major blocks. They are: General call, Effectual call, and Technical call. Firstly, God gives the General call to every creature on earth. We are all called to turn away from our sins and to turn toward God and His plan for our salvation. Secondly, in Effectual call the Holy Spirit improves upon the general call and makes it effective unto salvation. Those who respond to Christ in faith are the recipients of this effectual. Jesus says in Matt.22:14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen”. Many- General call; the few effectual call. Lastly, we have the Vocation or Technical Call, God frequently called people to Himself and to His work. In Gen. 12:1-9 Abraham was called to leave his home and to travel to a place of promise. In Rom 1:1 Paul was “called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ”. Thus vocation or technical call is the call to carry out a specific assignment for God. The call of Samuel belongs to the third level of call. He was called by God for a particular assignment. Beloved, what is God calling us to do today?
God is calling us to holiness. Call to Holiness is not a popular teaching in the church today. Our ears itch for powerful promises, personal prophecies, and protection from forces. The document of the Second Vatican Council “Lumen Gentium”, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Tells us about the universal call to holiness. This kind of call can be regarded as the General call from God to all – a call to be holy. In the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”. 1Pet.1:14-15 says “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Beloved, we are called to holiness of life; precisely because of this St Paul tells us in the second reading about the call to be chaste. He says “Brethren: The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Beloved, what do you do with your body?
Again, God is calling us to do his will. This kind of call belong to the second level of call – the effective call. The response to the Psalm of today says” See, I have come, Lord, to do your will” Beloved; every call from God is an expression of a burden which is in the heart of the Father. That is why it is called a call – from the Latin word “vocare” that is an invitation to do something for God. Our vocation is a call to do something not for ourselves but for God. Thus, we are called to do the Father’s will. The Patriarchs of old were sent to carry out the will of the Father; all the Prophets of old knew this, and they aligned to fulfill the will of the Father. Jesus himself came and said in Luke 22:42 “…not my will but your will be done”; in the same vein, Jesus taught us to pray in Matt.6:10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Beloved, the assignment that God has given to you is not about you; but about his will. If we don’t carry out his will we shall not enjoy his Eternal Will.
Lastly, God is calling us to discipleship. This kind of call belongs to the vocational of technical call. The Gospel reading speaks of the call of the first two disciples of Jesus Christ. The reading says they followed Jesus from the very moment John pointed out the Lamb of God. We too must follow Jesus from the very moment of encounter. We must make sincere effort to break the walls limitations around us and follow Jesus. Again, the gospel says they stayed with him. As disciples we are not just to follow him but also to stay with him. We are to stay with him at all times. The New Ratio no. 61 says a “disciple is one whom the Lord has called to stay with him, to follow him, and to become a missionary of the Gospel”. Thus, when they asked Jesus “Where are you staying?” Jesus said to them “Come and see” Beloved, Jesus said to them “Come and see” so that they can “go and tell”. Every disciple is sent on mission – to share the Good News of Christ to the world. Precisely because of this Jesus gave the disciples to mandate to go into the world and preach the gospel to all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
GOD’S CALL IN OUR LIVES
Today, as we continue the ordinary time of the liturgical year of the Church, we are given the opportunity to reflect on God’s call in our lives. Christ came to call us out of darkness into the wonderful light of God’s presence. Perhaps it is beyond mere coincidence that the call came to Samuel when he was asleep, in the night.
In the Gospel, it is Jesus who first spoke to those disciples of John who followed Him after John pointed to Him as the ‘Lamb of God’. This is divine initiative in action. As others before us have been called, we too are addressed by God. Jesus said to His first followers ‘Come’, as He did to Andrew and Peter and the rest. They came, they responded to the call and ‘leaving all things they followed him.’
It is thus quite certain that it is God who calls us. He is the origin and the source. It is always God who takes the first step. When the human mind begins to seek and the human heart begins to long, God comes to meet us far more than half way. God does not leave man to search and search until he comes to him; God goes out to meet the man.
As Augustine said, we could not even have begun to seek for God unless He has already found us. When we go to God, we do not go to one who hides himself and keeps us at a distance; we go to one who stands waiting for us, and who even takes the initiative by coming to meet us on the road.
As our Responsorial Psalm tells us: “You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, for holocausts or victims but an open ear.” No matter the call, no matter the specific instruction, what is common in all ways of life to which God calls us is the necessity of opening and listening. This is much more necessary in our life as Christians. How do we often and faithfully listen to what the Lord has to say? Even when we pray, do we not tend to talk so much that we listen too little even if at all?
In the story of Samuel, he was assisted to respond accordingly. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Samuel did not just repeat these words, he actually lived them. His response was not just ‘I am listening’ but ‘I am ready and willing to do what you want of me’. He did not know what lay ahead, any more than Mary did when, at the end of the Annunciation, she said, ‘Let it be done to me according to your word.’ The First reading ends saying: “Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.”
In the book of Revelation 3:15-16 we read: “I know about your activities; how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other, but since you are neither hot nor cold, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.” God expects that we listen with attention to His call. The kind of attention that we give to God’s call determines the kind of response we shall give.
In the Gospel, we read about the first two disciples: ‘Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus.’ It is not possible to hear without listening. They had the required disposition, attention and openness. This, in turn, determines their response. They followed Jesus. As they followed Jesus, Jesus himself turned round and asked: ‘What are you looking for?’
For us today, we may find that question a little bit embarrassing. John the Baptist has just pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the expected Saviour and his disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Now, for Jesus to turn round and ask them: ‘what are you looking for?’ is surprising to say the least. However, be that as it may, that question was very appropriate and relevant then in the Palestine of the first century because expectations and motives were numerous due to the many parties (both political and religious) then prevalent.
The question of Jesus is also relevant for us today. People follow Jesus, even until our own time and day, for a variety of reasons. Each one of us can ask himself or herself, “What am I really looking for? What is my goal in life? What am I really trying to achieve in everything I do? Is it merely material security? Is it prestige and prominence of a brilliant career? Is it something deeper, like self-respect, integrity, wholeness, peace with myself? Is it something deeper still: peace with God?”
As we can see, the question of Jesus sends us back to ourselves. It invites us to lucidity and simplicity, to a truly free choice. Jesus does not let us follow Him for long on the mere witnessing of someone else out of curiosity or force of habit. He wants us to be attentive, fully aware, and that is why He asks us: “what do you seek?” He presumes that it is not just anything that we want, but something very definite. On the occasion of our baptism, the Church of God asks us a similar question: what do you desire? and we answered “Faith”.
The answer of the two disciples is also very inspiring. They answered him: “Rabbi (which means Teacher) where do you stay?” They addressed Him as a Teacher, and they wanted to know where He lives. In those days, this is quite normal as the Rabbi sits in his house, gathers students around himself, and teaches them the Law.
Their question therefore: ‘where do you stay?’ points to a desire to live and learn from Jesus, to know more about His person. Knowing their disposition, Jesus immediately replied: ‘come and see’. With these words, He invited them, not only to come and talk, but to come and find the things that He alone could open out to them.
They went along, saw it, stayed with him and eventually knew Him better and truly. They discover His true identity; the Messiah.
We will never be able to be true disciples unless we spend time with the Lord, either in prayer, in reflection on His word or in practical charity to others. We too need to come, make a move, and to see, to discover for ourselves who is Christ.
Having stayed with Him, the two disciples found what they were looking for. It is interesting that at first Andrew and John called Jesus ‘Rabbi’, but once they had spent the day with Him, they knew Him more deeply as the ‘Messiah’.
When God calls us, it is not for our own selfish motive. We are called for others. Someone who is called to be a priest is sent to minister to others. Another person who is called to the married life is sent to be God’s means of sharing his life and love with the children. To keep the call of God exclusive and strictly personal is an abuse of a great privilege.
The gift of faith, which we have been given as Christians, is meant to be shared with and spread to others around us. Faith without good works, we are told by James, is dead. Andrew immediately shared his faith with the one nearest and dearest to him.
Faith is strengthened when it is kindly shared with others, especially with those nearest and dearest to us. As we share the good news with others, our own lifestyle should also go along to confirm what we share. One important area is in the use we make of our bodies.
Hence, we hear the admonitions of Paul in the Second reading of today. Our response to God’s call applies to all aspects of our lives. Following Christ, now as well as then, means giving Him our heart, our whole being, our life itself.
Christ has redeemed us body and soul. We have been purified by the blood of Jesus and destined for eternal life with Him. This is why we must not misuse our bodies, but use them solely for the glory of God. In this alone do we find true freedom and fulfillment. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
In the words of our response to the Psalm today, ‘Here I am Lord, I come to do your will’. As we continue this week of prayer for Christian unity, we bear in mind the will of Christ for His followers; that they may be one as He and the Father are one (John 17).
Let us pray fervently and work as much as possible that this will of Christ may become not just a possibility, but a solid reality.
May the Lord make us His own all the days of our lives.
As we come before Him today, may we go from here in sincere readiness and generous willingness to do His will in all things and at all times, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Galadima Bitrus, OSA:
HEARING AND RECOGNIZING THE LORD
With the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday, the Christmas season ended and we began the liturgical ordinary year cycle B. The ordinary liturgical year consists of 33 to 34 weeks, divided into two: Ordinary Time I, which begins from the Monday after 6thJanuary to the beginning of Lent, and Ordinary Time II, which begins from the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and ends on the Saturday before the 1stSunday of Advent.
During ordinary time, we have the opportunity to deepen our understanding of the mystery of Christ, focusing our attention each Sunday on a particular aspect of the message of Christ and the ways in which such message must shape our everyday life.
In this 2nd Sunday, the readings focus our attention on hearing and recognizing the Lord when he speaks to us or when we see him, so as to grow in our understanding of his will and purpose for us.
In the 1st Reading (from 1 Samuel 3:3-10.19), we read the account of the call of the young Samuel, who was in the service of the Lord under Eli and will become a judge and a prophet of the Lord. In a time when the word of the Lord was rare and prophecy was not widespread, the Lord calls Samuel at night, as he was asleep besides the Ark of God while the lamp of God still burnt.
Through the help of the old priest of Shiloh, Eli, Samuel was guided to listen attentively to the Lord and to receive his word; being encouraged by Eli, he was able to deliver accurately the Lord’s message without fear or favour, even when it was an unpleasant message and the person concerned was his own tutor and benefactor.
The night is a frequent time for revelations in the Hebrew Bible (see Genesis 26:24; 46:2; 2 Samuel 7:4; 1 Kings 3:4-15; 2 Chronicles 1:7-13; 7:12; Daniel 7:2; Psalm 17:3; Acts 23:11; 16:9; 18:9). Sleeping in the sanctuary beside the Ark reflects an ancient Near Eastern practice whereby a person seeking guidance would sleep in the sanctuary or a holy place, hoping to receive a divine visitation in a dream.
The fact that Samuel was inexperienced and the word of God was rare and prophecy not widespread, explains why they did not understand at once that it was the Lord calling until the third time, which is a number of divine completeness and perfection in the Bible, especially prominent in the New Testament (see Luke 22:54-62; 24:7; John 21:15-17).
The call of Samuel, therefore, helps us to understand that although the Lord speaks to us individually and personally, we may just need time and others around us to make fuller sense of the Lord’s voice and call. It also encourages us to learn to honour our duty to speak and bear witness to the truth that the Lord has revealed to us. For truth to be truth, it must be as blind as madam justice, equally served to all, irrespective of persons and affiliations.
In the 2nd Reading (1 Corinthians 6:13-20), the apostle Paul makes the case for bodily purity. Corinth was a prominent trade centre and an important place of Greco-Roman civilization, characterized by lots of fun-seeking, such that among its temples were some dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Paul had to redefine the concept of love for the Greco-Roman converts to Christianity, as we can find in the famous love poem in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.
Paul also had to face squarely the question of sexual immorality that was central to the Corinthian love culture, arguing as we read in today’s 2nd reading, that our body is not meant for sexual immorality (Greek porneia). He puts forward three arguments to drive home this teaching:
+ Our body is united with Christ as a man becomes one with his wife and vice versa. Sexual intercourse unites the two partners in a real way and makes them one (vv. 13-17).
+ While other sins are committed outside the body, fornication is all the more grievous because it is sin against one’s own body (v. 18).
+ Our body is also not ours but the temple of the Holy Spirit, bought or ransomed through Christ’s crucifixion, hence, the need to use it to glorify God rather than abusing it for carnal gratification (vv. 19-20).
Thus, the 2nd Reading underlines our call to holiness, especially as it pertains to our sexual conduct.
In the Gospel (John 1:35-42), we read of the call of Jesus’ first disciples. Andrew was among the two disciples of John who were directed to Jesus by their own teacher John when he pointed at Jesus as “the lamb of God” (1:35-36), a possible allusion to the Passover lamb associated with redemption. In John 1:29, Jesus as lamb of God is qualified as “the one who takes away the sin of the world.” The two disciples of John who asked Jesus where he lived were invited to “come and see” and they “came and saw” where he was staying and remained with him (1:37-39) and even invited others to come and see the awaited Messiah (1:40-42).
Clearly, therefore, the other is significant in our journey to finding God and finding his purpose for us. Just as Eli was instrumental for Samuel in making sense of God’s voice and call in the 1st reading, in the Gospel John is instrumental for Andrew and the other disciple in their finding Jesus, and Andrew is, in turn, instrumental for Peter finding Jesus and therefore his own vocation.
May we recognize in each other the path to God and his voice calling us by name and entrusting us with our own share of responsibility towards making our world a temple where God’s voice and presence are recognized, acknowledged, worshipped and adored!