The theme of the readings this week and this weekend is crystal clear: God calls us. If we had ears we would hear God calling all day long. He calls adults, children, sick people, people at work, people on holidays, sinful people, holy people. God never stops calling – all day long – and sometimes during the night too. Can we, can I hear Him?
We don’t always realize that it is God; Samuel thought it was Eli calling him.
When mom or dad asks for help with the dishes or the gardening children can be tempted to think that it’s only mom or dad calling; and mom and dad can think: it’s only the boss telling me to turn up to work on time. Young couples might say: Oh, it’s only the Church that wants us to behave in this way – and all the time it’s God calling.
When we lower our morals to satisfy our fleshly desires in unhealthy carnal relationships contrary to the sacredness of the Sacrament of marriage.
In the second reading from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians St. Paul makes it crystal clear that justifying fornication as part of Christian liberty is an incorrect interpretation of his preaching and that the body must be preserved from all immorality.
The Gospel gives an account of the vocation of the first four Apostles who followed Jesus. It was a momentous event in the history of salvation. It was the beginning of a stream of vocations that would grow and spread down through the ages until the end of the world. It was momentous, firstly, in that Christ, who had come to open heaven for all men and who could find means of bringing them all to that eternal home without help from any man, decided instead to let men co-operate with him in this divine task. He decreed to set up a kingdom in this world—his Church—which would be run by mere mortals for their fellow-mortals, but which would be under his protection and assisted by his divine aid until the end of time. Christ chose this very human way, in order to make his Church more acceptable to our limited, human understanding and more approachable for sinful, human nature.
Christ, as God, could deal directly with every human being on earth. He could teach the infallible truth; he could pardon sins; he could give all the graces needed to travel successfully to heaven. There would then be no need for a Church with its teaching magisterium, no need for the sacrament of Baptism, or of Penance, nor of the Holy Eucharist itself or of any other such aids. Christ could do all that his Church does for the salvation of mankind, and more successfully, of course, but yet he chose the way which divine wisdom saw was best.
We mortals know that God can speak directly to our hearts, and actually has done so to many men in the past. We know that he can do directly all that is done by his Church, to whom he gave the power, with its teaching magisterium and sacraments. If he were to act in this way we should be open to continuous doubts about the source of our inspirations and the objectivity of the graces we thought we were receiving. It was to remove such doubts, and the possibility of self-deception that Christ left to us the external visible kingdom to which he gave all the powers necessary for men’s salvation. It was for the security and peace of men’s consciences that he set up a visible Church founded on the Apostles, men like ourselves, but transformed by his assisting grace.
Another momentous fact in Christ’s choice of the Apostles on whom he was to build his Church, is that he “chose the lowly and the humble to confound the wise.” The first four Apostles, as well as the other eight, were simple, lowly fishermen from Galilee. They may possibly have been able to read and write a little, but they were certainly not men of education or any social standing in their communities. He could have converted and chosen some of the more highly educated scribes of Jerusalem, or some of the Roman centurions then in Palestine, or some of the many philosophers in Greece, or even Roman senators whose influence as Christian teachers would carry such weight with the educated elite of the empire. But he did not. The instrument he chose to carry his message to all men was not dependent on human ingenuity or on the educational or social standing of his witnesses. Rather it was to stand on the power of God, of which it was the expression and proof.
We can see clearly the divine wisdom governing Christ’s choice of Apostles! Had his message of salvation been spread and promulgated by men of learning and social standing, the cry would soon go up on all sides: “This religion is the invention of philosophers; it is a clever plan of the upper classes to keep the poor and humble workers in subjection.” But it was the poor and working classes who spread Christ’s message, and who suffered imprisonment and death itself at the hands of the educated and upper classes for so doing.
Today, let us thank our blessed Lord who provided so humanly—and yet so divinely for our eternal welfare. In the Church, which he founded on the lowly but solid foundation of simple fishermen of Galilee, he erected an institution against which the gates of hell, the power of all the enemies of our salvation, cannot prevail, for his divine guidance and help will be with it forever. It has had enemies and opposition from the beginning; they may be more numerous and more destructive than ever today. But the promise of Christ still holds good, his word cannot fail. Therefore, neither the opposition of materialistic enemies from without, nor the even more insidious attacks from faint-hearted and worldly-minded members from within, can affect the safety and permanence of the building which Christ built on the Rock. “If God is with us,” it matters not “who is against us.”
The Lord calls us the same way he loves us – as individuals. We are not called as crowd and we are not saved as crowd. We are saved one by one. The Lord desires from me the one thing I alone can give him – a relationship with me. No one else can give him my yes! He wants to hear it from my lips alone. And only from your lips, only you can give him your yes. Only you can follow His teaching, be His disciple.
It’s always amusing when people say they have a sister a nun, or a brother a priest, and yet they themselves don’t practice. We will be saved on the basis of our relationship with the Lord, not by our association with someone else, our brother, sister, mother, father, our neighbor, who has a relationship with the Lord. Even if we are the Pope’s brother or sister we will never sneak in to heaven in someone else’s shadow.
God calls repeatedly – Samuel! Samuel! He calls until we say yes at a deeper and deeper level; on and on he goes, calling us deeper and deeper into a life of love and service. He wants you to be happy; to have the best life you can have here on earth and also in heaven.
‘Are you ready today to say yes to me, to give up that sin, to respond to your neighbor’s need, to stay faithful to your human dignity, to make that long overdue confession, to begin being faithful to the Sunday Mass, to change your ways, to give yourself to me?’ Over and over he calls, stubbornly refusing to listen to our excuses because he never stops believing in us.
So many of us Catholics are doing the same thing as Samuel did. We are asleep in the sanctuary of our faith, dozing. The Lord is calling the whole Catholic world to get up on its feet but he is doing it person by person. Right now he is calling each one of us.
What is he calling us to today here in our little parish? I believe he is calling each one of us to rediscover our identity as evangelizers; he is calling us to get up and call others.
Jesus is our Rabbi, our Teacher. He shows us the way, the truth and the life.
Samuel answered, Speak, Lord; your servant is listening, and went on to become a mighty instrument of God. It is not beyond us to do the same.
I know that we are striving to walk in the way, the truth and the life that comes to each and everyone of us through Jesus. Your presence here today is a spiritual sign that the grace of God is at work in all of you.
As long as we continue to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, although being weak in human nature, there is hope. And as long as there is hope, the grace and mercy of God will not let us down.