January 26, 2014

ORDINARY 3 (A)

Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. – Mt. 4: 19

   The call of God is not unlike the call of the wild because it leads us out into the unknown, from the comfortable & familiar to a goal which we see but darkly as through a glass. It is the same call that led Abraham out from Ur, that called Moses to go to Egypt, Isaiah to give up his status among the Jerusalem aristocracy, & Nehemiah to give up his job as the King’s cup-bearer to go back & rebuild a forgotten Jerusalem. The call of God is a scary call & we resist it with all our might because we do not know where it is going to lead us.

   As a child I had a recurring nightmare in which I felt myself being irresistibly drawn to the edge of a cliff. In terror I would grab the trees, & either the pull would be so strong I would lose my grip or the tree would come up by the roots & I would find myself going off the edge of this cliff anyway & then waking up. The call of God is not unlike that. We cling to all the things that are familiar – our family, our jobs, our status, our money, our prejudices, even our cherished skepticism. All these things we cling to desperately, & if we do not successfully resist, they give way. We find ourselves drawn over the edge of that cliff, only to wake up to real life & joy. God’s love is like that. He will not leave us alone. He loves us too much to leave us in our blindness & fear.

   Beyond our natural resistance to God’s call is that fact that many of us are like deaf people at a concert.  We may make the effort & even go to Church on Sunday, but we miss the music. We do not follow His call because we cannot hear it or we refuse to. We have to be intimate with God on some level.

   This is why the priest today cannot be merely a paid lover of people in a world which has forgotten how to love. No doubt being an administrator, a social worker & an amateur psychiatrist are talents needed in his work, but others can do these things better because they are trained in these disciplines. Prayer is primary: if he is not primarily a man of prayer, then it is self-defeating; it becomes a substitute for the real thing.

   Many churches today are facing an identity crisis because they have become so caught up in their good works that they’ve missed the source & reason for those good works. The Gospel is more needed today because sociology & psychiatry have become ends in themselves. Even if we could feed everyone in the world, even if we could clothe them & put a roof over their heads, we would still not have given them a reason for living. Human reason alone cannot do the job.

   At my old seminary there was a saying: “God called you to be a priest because He couldn’t trust you to be a layman.” I think there is a lot of wisdom in that. Whether we are called to the religious life, to the priesthood, or to be a married or single layman, none of this can be given any real direction unless we make some effort to educate ourselves in the divine symphony, & that requires a disciplined prayer life.

   Even so, we also know that the Holy Spirit does not depend upon our efforts at educating ourselves about Him. Sometimes He breaks into our lives when we least expect it – like Saul on the road to Damascus. Still, we have a role to play in hearing the call & responding to it. St. Paul was not converted in a vacuum, & if he couldn’t speak fluent Greek he could not have been the apostle to the Gentiles that we was. We can no longer afford going through life with a lot of education but only a fourth grade level of understanding our faith on the other hand. Until the inequality is eliminated, we will continue to witness inadequately for an inadequate idea of God.  AMEN!