(1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 16:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42)
The readings this week have to do with our call to faith. First, we hear of God calling Samuel in the Temple as a young boy in the Jewish Scriptures and then we hear of Andrew and his brother, Simon in John’s Gospel. In each case, there is a readiness, a call, and a response. All of these actions flow from God’s grace. The only thing required of us is humility, God supplies the rest. I say humility because we would like to think that we’re doing things on our own merit, but the truth of the matter is that everything is a gift from God and if it were not for God’s grace we wouldn’t even exist.
The gift we receive is great indeed for each of us is created in the “image and likeness” of God. (Genesis 1:26-27) The Book of Genesis goes on at some length regarding how blessed we are, but somehow we don’t necessarily believe it. Our calling is simply to accept this gift and live this gift fully in a way that honors and glorifies God. It takes humility and courage to be obedient, as Samuel was, and to simply respond, “Speak for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10) There is much in the systems of this world that would lead us to believe that we must look out for ourselves first – I admit this is my great temptation. I would like to believe that I earned my place in the world and that I have what I have on my own merit. If others are not blessed with a safe home, a good job, or plenty of food to eat, then I judge that they are lazy, or stupid, or sinful. When I am honest with myself I realize that my place in the world was largely due to being raised in good neighborhoods, in a prosperous country, in the context of a stable family. None of these things were due to my efforts, but due to others who came before me who were similarly blessed.
I was speaking with a man this week that shared with me his troubled upbringing. I was surprised because I have always judged him to have all the benefits of the faith and family growing up and therefore it was not surprising to me how he had dedicated his life to serving the Lord. He enlightened me to the fact that he was well on his way to a life of crime, drugs, and gangs. His father had been a troubled man and he had passed on some of this baggage to his son. But then he received a call from God and because he had reached rock bottom at that point and because he realized that he needed to turn his life over to God – he got the calling loud and clear. Like Samuel (but for different reasons) he had true humility and was ready to hear God’s call to service. As it has turned out he is now serving the very people who suffered much as he had suffered. He has become a “wounded healer.” The beauty of his story is that the service, he has now committed his life to, is a great joy and not drudgery or a punishment for how he had lived before his conversion. This is how God can transform lives when we are willing to use whatever God-given gifts we have for others.
This can happen to us when we are young, like Samuel, or later in life as it happened with Andrew and Simon. Who knows why they went out to see John the Baptist? Perhaps it was curiosity that led these two fishermen to go out and see the ‘wild man’ in the desert. Or maybe they were at the end of their rope or there were problems with their fishing business. No one knows for sure, but they were open enough to hear John’s enigmatic introduction of Jesus’ as the “Lamb of God,” and then to follow after Jesus. They went to see where Jesus was staying and spent a day to see what there was to see. Their deep desire for more in life led to the transformation of their lives forever. They became so passionate about their new mission that they ultimately forfeited their lives rather than deny the truth that Jesus proclaimed. Jesus’ mission to the lost children of God became their mission and purpose for the rest of their lives. Like Jesus, they sought out the lost and forgotten of this world to tell them the Good News of God’s forgiveness and to offer their healing presence. To heal and forgive is to change lives forever. All it requires is humility and to place ones gifts at the service of others. There are many ways to do this in our lives; we only have to be open to hearing God’s call. It may be in the evening, or at night, or at dawn, early in life or later. God is patient and is always calling and ready to receive your response.