Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on January 25 and 26, 2013 for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A at the 4:00PM (Vigil), 8:00AM, 10:30AM, and 5:30PM Masses
Hello! Or I should probably say, “Hello?” because today’s gospel is about answering a call and that is how you used to answer a call. You said “hello” in the form of a question because before cellphones and caller ID, you had no idea who was calling. Answering the phone used to be a gamble. It could be anyone: friends or relatives, telemarketers, Publishers Clearinghouse, Father John, the Pope, a prankster pretending to be the Pope. How different that is from how it is for us today.
Today when someone calls we know exactly who is calling because their name and number appear on our phone, sometimes even with a custom ringtone and their picture. We can decide to pick up the phone right away or let the call go to voicemail and call them back later. Things sure have changed.
Change is happening in today’s gospel as well. A new age has dawned. With John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus begins to preach about the kingdom of heaven and light is about to shine on those in darkness. Everything is about to become quite different, especially for Peter, Andrew, James, and John who decide to leave everything behind and follow Jesus. Jesus asks us to follow Him as well and as we heard in Father John’s homily last week, each of us has been given a very unique set of gifts and talents to fulfill our own special role in building the kingdom of God. But how do we know that it is Jesus who is calling us and what is asking of us? It would sure be nice if Jesus would call us on our cellphones so that we could verify, “Oh, it’s Jesus. I wonder what He wants.” Or if we were too busy to answer His call, because so often we put other things in our life before God, He would just leave us a voicemail.
But Jesus doesn’t call us on our cellphones because they are not very personal. Jesus comes to meet us wherever we are in life. Jesus did not post “Disciples Wanted” signs all over Galilee to recruit His disciples, instead He went down to the Sea of Galilee to meet them and call each of them by name. He does the same for us. We can sure that Jesus is calling us when it is personal. Of course by personal that does not mean that Jesus is going to walk right up to us as He did with Peter, Andrew, James, and John, but it means that Jesus will deliver a call that is personally suited to us. It will match the talents and gifts that have been given to us by God, it will fit into our schedules, it will be something that interests us, and probably most importantly it will be something that will give us great joy. Jesus knows all of these things about us and He forms our call accordingly. Our calling is always a personal encounter with Jesus because He knows us intimately and how uniquely suited our gifts and talents are to fulfilling the mission He has for us. He will never leave us a voicemail because our calling is so important to Him that He will call us over and over until we answer Him.
When Jesus called the disciples that day along the Sea of Galilee, He did not tell them “I want you to walk to the ends of the earth to spread the gospel and die a martyr’s death for me and my kingdom.” The disciples were not ready for that yet. Instead He simply asked them to follow, and they did. Jesus first built personal relationships with the disciples. As their relationship deepened and their faith and trust in Him grew, He revealed more about their calling to them. Eventually they did spread the gospel to the entire world, and most of them died for it.
Our calling might not take us around the world and we’re probably not going to die a martyr’s death from answering God’s call for our life, but Jesus is seeking a close relationship with us just like he had with His disciples. We can be sure that Jesus is calling us when our call flows directly out of our relationship with Him. Prayer is our cellphone connection to God and each time that we pray, Jesus reveals a little more about Himself to us and our faith and trust in Him grows. But just as importantly, he shows a little more about ourselves to us, all of the gifts and talents that we have, and how we are being called to use them.
We should note that Jesus did not choose priests, prophets, or kings to spread the gospel, but simple fishermen. “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men,” He said to them. Jesus took the disciples simple skills and abilities to fish and transformed them in a very special way to build the kingdom of God.
When Jesus is involved in our calling it always transforms us beyond ourselves. Our calling begins by answering Jesus’ call to follow Him. My call from the Lord was delivered through his mother Mary, a simple call to pray the rosary, which eventually led to my becoming Catholic and a relationship with her Son. Our call first changes us. Over time our call moves from being just about ourselves, but to focusing on others. We begin to offer the gifts and talents that we have been given back to our Lord and he accepts them and transforms them so that others are changed. Jesus will even show us talents and abilities we didn’t even know we had and allow us to overcome any fears and doubts that we may have about our talents and abilities. I am actually a very shy and introverted person and yet I stand in front of several hundred people preaching a homily as a deacon. But that is what the Lord does with our calling, He takes our simple gifts and talents and transforms them well beyond what we think we can do with them and He removes all our doubts and fears so that we can fulfill the unique mission he has chosen for us.
So let us get on our spiritual cellphones and pray to the Lord, to seek a more personal and deeper relationship with Him, so that we may better understand the gifts and talents He has given us and how He is asking us to use them. May He accept our talents and gifts, just as He accepts the gifts of bread and wine that we bring to the altar to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. In a similar way, may He transform our talents and gifts so that we can build the kingdom of God and bring light to the people in darkness. Let us rejoice and be glad that we have been chosen to be disciples of Christ.