In the first reading, we heard Samuel responding, “Here I am,” whenever he heard the voice of God. In the responsorial, we all responded, ”Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.” The question every one of us should ponder is, “What is God calling me to do?”
Unlike phones in the past, telephones now come equipped with caller ID and voice mail. We are now able to screen our calls and decide if we want to respond or not. I confess that if I don’t recognize the number or name, I am not likely to answer. Instead I will wait and see if the caller leaves a message on voice mail.
You could say that we all have caller ID and Voice Mail in our spiritual lives as well. Like Samuel, all of us receive calls from the Lord. Sometimes, like the disciples in the Gospel, we recognize the Lord's call and follow Him. Occasionally, however, we send God's call to voice mail. Perhaps we are afraid of what He is going to ask of us. Or we assume God might demand something more than we want to do or give.
Maybe, we'd rather deal with God later so we respond, “Not now, Lord, I am busy.” And 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 did in today's first reading, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” we might miss an 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 better serve Him. God's calls can impact both our lives as well as the lives of other people, even people we might not know. Now is the perfect time to discuss the call of God that we receive in our lives, our vocation. That word is not limited to ordained ministry or marriage, which are both calls from God to embrace a life of sacrificial love. When God is calling us, we are not always being called to ordination or marriage. We are, however, always being called to a way of life that leads to holiness.
God created us out of love for love. Thus, God calls on us to act out of love for others. We might recognize a call from God to use our funds or time to help others. It's easy to send such calls to voice mail, but then we will miss an opportunity to do God's will, an opportunity to love. Sometimes we miss God's call because we allow ourselves to become too busy to answer it. God calls us, but we send his call to voice mail. "We'll get back to you later when we have more time,” we say. Only, later we may be too busy to check our voice mail.
John Henry Newman felt God's call and reflected on it with a beautiful prayer. Now you might be wondering, who was John Henry Newman? He was a scholar and an intellectual who lived in England from 1801 to 1890. He dabbled with atheism early in his life, but then God called. He couldn't put him off. He sought God in religion, in the Church of England, also called the Anglican Church. He became an Anglican priest and continued his studies of Christianity at Oxford University. In 1845 he wrote that as he studied more and more the writings of the early Fathers of the Church, he was convinced that the Catholics were the closest followers of Christianity in its original form.
He had a deep respect for the Anglican Church, but he also heard God calling him to become a Catholic. This was an extremely difficult decision that affected his life in every way possible. He could no longer teach at Oxford. He could no longer preach in the Anglican Churches. He was a patriotic Englishman who was embracing those people whom he had referred to as "our traditional enemies.” But God was calling. John Henry Newman was not about to send Him to voice mail. At age 44, he became a Catholic and soon after was ordained a priest, and eventually was made a cardinal.
Cardinal Newman wrote this beautiful prayer, which is a reflection not just on his life but also on all our lives: "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.”
God calls us in countless ways. The burden on us, my friends, is two-fold. First, we must consistently and personally answer God’s call to a moral, decent and holy life as Paul notes in his letter. Second, our lives, by their very nature, ought to be a call to others to come and see the presence of God in their lives.
So, what is your calling? What is my calling? The general answer to those questions is simple: we are called to know, love and serve God. How are we called to serve God? The answer is a mystery, one that unfolds every time we respond to God's call. We come before the Lord today and ask for the grace to get to know God's call in our lives. And we pray for the courage to answer His call rather than send it to voice mail. We pray that when He calls we will respond, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”