God's Word on Sunday: God’s call goes out to all of us

  • January 12, 2024

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Jan. 14 (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42)

The call of God comes to people in many different ways. Just as no two people are alike, no two calls are alike — each one is tailor-made to the individual. We might label Samuel’s prophetic call as the “voice in the middle of the night.” In gratitude for the gift of her child, Samuel’s mother Hannah had given him over to Eli to be raised and formed for service to God. This was long before the building of the permanent temple or the presence of Israelites in Jerusalem.

In the stillness of the night, Samuel heard someone call his name. Thinking it was Eli calling him, he ran to see what Eli wanted. Irritated, Eli sent him back to bed. It happened a second time, and now Eli was alert. He told Samuel that if he heard the voice again, to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” He did as he was told, and sure enough, the voice called him a third time. He responded as Eli had instructed him. Omitted from the lectionary reading is a prophecy against the sons of Eli for their wickedness, and an announcement that Eli’s tenure as prophet was drawing to an end. Samuel had the unhappy task of delivering that grim prophecy to Eli.

Genuine calls are persistent, even nagging at times. They cannot be ignored forever, for one will have no peace. Many people are afraid to listen to God’s call and follow. Where will it lead me? And why me? Samuel’s response was what God was waiting for — it showed trust, openness and a willingness to serve. It was also the response of Mary in the Gospel of Luke — let it be done to me according to your word. God’s call might not be so dramatic for most people, but it may be just as important. God’s world is built with the positive and open responses of thousands of ordinary people.

Paul was facing a serious pastoral problem. The community in Corinth was in chaos because of two key issues. The first was factionalism and divisiveness, and the second was immoral behaviour on the part of some. Here Paul was dealing with the second one — some members of the community were visiting prostitutes. He pointed out that they were all part of Christ’s body and that the actions of one affected the entire body, for good or ill. The community had to be considered as a whole, and not as a collection of individuals.

Paul then raised the bar by insisting that each person in that community was a temple of the Holy Spirit and had to be treated with the appropriate reverence and respect. If the individual is a temple of the Spirit, as well as the community as a whole, then whatever is done to one is done to all. We need to regain our sense of collective wholeness as believers in Christ. Believing and living this would result in a very different church and world.

The call can also come in the form of a certain direction pointed out to us. The two disciples of John sounded like a couple of earnest and seeking individuals. As Jesus walked by, John pointed Him out and called Him the Lamb of God. That was all they needed to hear: they dropped everything and chased after Jesus. Jesus turned and asked them — and us — a pointed question: What are you looking for? Many people are not really sure — they only know that they feel a restlessness and yearning. Jesus is asking us what the deepest desire of our heart is.

The disciples asked Jesus where He was staying — the Greek word can also mean dwelling or abiding — and Jesus replied, “Come and see!” Words in John’s Gospel contain levels and nuances of meaning. Jesus was inviting them to come and see (experience) for themselves where He was dwelling. The answer, of course, was that Jesus dwells and abides in God the Father and invites us to do the same. Here the call is more of an invitation, but with a sense of urgency. The two disciples followed, they then enlisted Simon, and the three then went to see Jesus. The community — the body of Christ — was beginning to form.

What sort of “pointers” has the Lord given us in our journey?