ORDINARY 2 (B)
What are you looking for? – John 1: 38
God’s call comes to us in many varied ways, but I think it begins with this question: “What are you looking for in life?” Questions are important because they set the direction of our seeking. I doubt that few of us would start with the answer “God,” because we are full of our own agendas. It takes disappointment & disillusionment (more for some than others) before we recognize that the things we thought were so important really aren’t. The next time we run up against a brick wall, pause to reflect that God may be preparing us for something more fulfilling. This means that most of us are not called directly like Peter, Andrew & John, but more subtly & persuasively by example & circumstance. Here are two examples.
About 90 years ago a man came across his own obituary in the morning paper, which had gotten some names mixed up. Curious to find out what people would say about him after he died, he read past the bold caption which read “Dynamite king dies.” He was taken aback by the description of him as a “merchant of death.” He had invented dynamite & had amassed a great fortune from the manufacture of weapons of destruction. He was moved by this. Did he really want to be known as a “merchant of death?”
It was at that moment that a healing power greater than the destructive force of dynamite came over him. It was his hour of conversion, his call. From that point on, he devoted his energy & money to works of peace & human betterment. Today, of course, he is best remembered not as a “merchant of death,” but as the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize, Alfred Nobel.
Now the story of a bishop of the last century & how he got his call, his vocation: he was a noted evangelizer, making his special outreach to cynics, unbelievers, & scoffers. He liked to tell the story of a young man who used to stand outside the cathedral shouting derogatory remarks at the people entering to worship. He would call them fools & all kind of names. The people tried to ignore him but it was difficult. So the parish priest went outside to confront the young man, who simply ranted & raved against everything the priest told him. Finally, the priest addressed the young scoffer. “Look, let’s get this over with once & for all. I’m going to make a deal with you. I’m going to put you on a dare & I bet you can’t do it.”
The young man shot back: I can do anything you propose, you black robed wimp!” “Fine,” said the priest, “all I ask you to do is come into the sanctuary with me & I want you to stare at the figure of Jesus Christ & I want you to scream at the top of your lungs, as loud as you can, ‘Christ died on the cross for me & I don’t care one bit.” So the young man screamed as loud as he could, looking at the figure, “Christ died on the cross for me & I don’t care one bit.’”
“Very good,” said the priest, “Now do it again.” Again the young man screamed it out, but with a little more hesitancy. “You’re almost done now,” said the priest, “One more time.” The young man raised his fist, kept looking at the statue, but the words wouldn’t come. He just could not look at the face of Christ & say that anymore. The real punch line came when, after he told the story, the bishop said, “I was that young man. That defiant young man was me. I thought I didn’t need God, but found out that I did.”
Our burden is two-fold: First, we must consistently & personally answer the call to a moral, decent & holy life. Second, our Christ-like lives, by their very nature, ought to be a call to others. AMEN!