“Here I am, you called me.”

Homily for January 14, 2018 (2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time)
1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42

“Here I am, you called me.”

That was the response of young Samuel when he thought he heard Eli calling him in the temple of the Lord.  It was a simple response to a direct and personal call.  Only through time, trial and error, discernment and Eli’s help did Samuel discover who was really calling him:  God!  In a similar way, Simon Peter didn’t know of Jesus until his brother Andrew introduced him; and Andrew didn’t meet Jesus until John the Baptist pointed to him as the Lamb of God.

Like Samuel, Simon Peter and Andrew we are all called personally by God.  The first notes of that call come to us in our Baptism, and over the course of our lives it may come to us directly and immediately.  But more often it comes indirectly and unfolds over time.

I first thought about coming a priest when I was six years old.  Unlike Samuel, I didn’t hear God speaking to me!  Instead, I saw God speaking to me through the examples of some extraordinary priests.  One was a Jesuit chaplain at Marquette University and the other was the elderly monsignor who was the pastor of our parish.  What impressed me the most was their compassion and willingness to listen to others, even kids like me.

Years later I would see those same qualities as well as a passion for justice and a sense of humor in the Capuchin friars I came to know in high school.  In addition, they had high expectations of us.  Like St. Paul in our second reading, they challenged me and my fellow students to see not only our bodies but our talents and everything else that we had as gifts from God to be used for a good and holy purpose.  Even though we were still young, the friars saw us as already vital members of the Body of Christ with something to contribute.

One of those friars recently died, and I was privileged to preach at his funeral Mass.  Five months ago, my father died, and I had the honor of presiding and preaching at his funeral.  Like the priests and friars that I mentioned, Dad walked with me and encouraged me as I discerned God’s call.  His greatest gift, though, was his life of prayer.  He set an example by praying the rosary daily and regularly going to Mass, he taught my brothers and sisters and I how to pray, and he continued to pray for us long after we left home. 

When Jesus calls his disciples in today’s gospel reading, he asks a question: “What are you looking for?”  He also answers another question, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” with an invitation: “Come, and you will see.”  Those questions and that invitation are as real today as they were when Jesus gathered his first disciples and began his public ministry.   Each of us must ask and respond to them.  But we can give thanks that we don’t have to do that alone.  We have many people who, like Eli and Andrew, will walk with us along the way. +