There is a kind of comfort in uniformity and standardization. I
notice each morning as I pour Cheerios from the box, that each little
circle of oat-munchies is exactly the same. Producing and packaging
presents us with perfectly-predictable M & M’s, cans of
Coke, and well-shaped eggs in their little paper nests.
As we move these days from one liturgy to the next, we could celebrate prayerfully our uniqueness and God’s creative love of us and perhaps with more difficulty, the singular-sacredness of others. We might have to pray as well with how, at times, we would like others to be predictably standard and packaged for our convenience.
Our First Reading is a “Call narrative” in which Samuel keeps getting awakened. Hannah, his mother, has presented him to the temple under the care of Eli a priest of that temple. In the previous chapter from which this reading is taken, Eli has confronted his sons about their violating the laws concerning sacrificial meat offered for purification. They have not listened to his warnings.
Samuel is awakened by what he assumes is the voice of Eli, but at the third calling, Eli knows that it is God calling Samuel. He tells Samuel to go back to sleep and to keep listening, which he does. Samuel awakens and says that he wishes God to keep speaking for he desires to listen.
What we do not hear, but Samuel did hear, was that he had to go tell Eli that, because of the rebellion of his sons, Eli’s whole family will be destroyed. Samuel did not want to have to say these things, but eventually he did and Eli heard and accepted the fateful message. What Samuel heard he spoke and so was growing into being the prophet. He learned by listening, the ways and words of God.
The Gospel is the beginning of the narrative of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus according to John. John the Baptist is standing with two of his disciples, waiting and watching. Jesus makes His entrance onto the stage by walking along. John announces the arrival of “The Lamb” and the two disciples follow Jesus, at least to a distance wherein Jesus might notice that He is being followed. The question Jesus asks them, Jesus will ask in various ways during the rest of the Gospel. “What do you want?” “Whom do you seek?” When the two respond Jesus invites them to more than they are expecting. “Come and see and you will find where I am staying in more ways than one.”
Simon, son of John, receives his first call through his brother Andrew and gets his new name, Peter, and so a new identity as one who is called. In the Scriptures, the one who renames another announces that the namer has authority or profound influence within the relationship with the named. This is different from having complete control over the person. Jesus, as we see in the life of their relationship does not dominate Peter, but calls him again and again to who Jesus knows Peter to be. The first calling is not the last for Peter.
Here is a simple statement, that one “Yes” most often echoes down through many other questions, calls, invitations in our lives. The “yes” of the marriage vows or even the engagement acceptance, is already a “yes” to the millions of “yeses” involved in living the marriage commitment. As a Catholic priest I try to live my “Yes” pronounced at my ordination. So let’s see, there have been more than a few selfish “Noes! Or usually, “Hmm, perhaps laters” in my years of following the Caller.
Our histories do seem to follow a pattern though. As Peter found out, we too are finding out that Jesus keeps calling us to stay faithful to His faithful recalling. I am remembering making a long chain of paper loops in grade school. There were different colored strips of construction paper, glued so as to link through the next strip. This long string of loops was then made as a present to my mother for Mother’s Day. I wonder how long she kept from laughing and how long she kept the present.
These loops were strung together like so many “yeses”, leading on and on. Fifty years ago I was planning to enter the Jesuits, having said “yes” to how I heard God in my soul. From that “yes”, I have been living this loopy-life taking me to persons and places not foreseen then. It is all quite an amazement leading me even farther into hearing new calls. Reviewing the loops, I find it less frightening to go on living the big “yes!” His divine “yes” is never an “Hmm” nor “Perhaps later.” Jesus is the glue.
“The Lord has prepared a feast for me: given wine in plenty for me to drink.” Ps. 23, 5
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