Thursday, July 14, 2005
God Calls and Man Responds
A thought just hit me this morning as I was praying lauds at my parish chapel: nobody calls and ordains one's self. It has ever been the case that God calls us to whatever work He plans for us. That was true for Abraham and the patriarchs, Elijah and the prophets, Samson and the judges, David and the kings, Peter and the twelve, and Paul. Some were called directly, e.g., Abraham and Moses. Many were called by ordination, e.g., David was annointed by Samuel. God calls and man responds. The story of Samuel, Eli's helper, is a good model for this. God calls us by name and, as Eli advises, we should quickly reply "Here I am, Lord!" This dovetails with everything we know about the relationship between God and Man: God calls, we listen and move towards God. God invites, we accept and we move closer to God. It is always God who initiates. It is to our advantage to respond openly, with humility and sincerity, and the end is always to become one with God. That is prayer: a relationship with God that starts with God, proceeds with our acceptance, and ends with God. Yesterday, a friend was asking me how to pray. In our discussion, he drops in the most significant clue as to why he was dissatisfied with his prayers: "but it's all about me!" I am no expert, but I think that I now have a nice answer for him: "Shema!" -- listen! It must begin with God's call. It is perhaps too much to expect that one will simply sit down and "tune in" just like that to God's voice. God calls us from many places and in many ways. The Scriptures are God-breathed and carry the voice of God. He calls us there. Other inspirational writings likewise may carry God's voice, through His inspiration that moved the authors to write. Writings from the Church Fathers, e.g., the Didache, the Epistle of St. Barnabas, St. Clement's epistle to the Corinthians --- but please avoid the heretical writings such as the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. Writings of the multitude of saints whose memoirs we still have, like St. Francis de Sales' "Introduction to the Devout Life." St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer left us many good books such as "The Way." The Rosary, which concisely goes through the highlights of the life of Crhist, also carries the voice of God. The lives of the martyrs and saints, whose lives were lived under God's inspiration, also carry God's call. Finally, the celebration of the Eucharist, the most concise and complete prayer of all, from the call of Scriptures in the Liturgy of the Word, to the call of the Lord's Supper in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is especially important as it carries an immense invitation to the Lamb's Supper that we glimpse in the words of St. John in his book of Revelations. God calls us in so many, many ways. So many books and lives to read. So many prayers and liturgical rites that invite us to live a deep and life-giving relationship with Him. We have only to respond with humility, sincerity and wonder.