January 15, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

Regardless of circumstances, the Lord calls each of us by name

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will” (Ps 40: 8a, 9a).

The Scripture readings for this weekend, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, emphasize the astonishing fact that each and every one of us is called—by name—to follow Jesus in a particular way.

Regardless of our circumstances, our personal histories, the mistakes we’ve made, the sins we’ve committed or the successes we’ve experienced in life, the Lord asks us to change, to devote our lives to being temples of the Holy Spirit and missionary disciples of Christ.

This is truly astonishing. Can it really be true that out of the billions of people living in the world yesterday, today and tomorrow, Jesus knows and loves each one of us by name? Is it not a wild exaggeration to claim that he has particular assignments for you and me and all our sisters and brothers?

Our faith says otherwise. We believe that God knows and loves intimately every man, woman and child (including refugees, those on death row and the unborn). And we believe that Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, invites and challenges each of us by our names to give up our daily preoccupations in order to follow him wholeheartedly.

In the first reading from the First Book of Samuel (1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19), the young Samuel hears a voice calling him in his sleep, but he mistakes it for his master. Eli wisely tells him to go back to bed but to remain attentive. As we read, “When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the Lord came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, ‘Samuel, Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect ” (1 Sm 3:9-10, 19).

The call that Samuel received was specific to him. He was to speak for the Lord. And because Samuel listened to the voice of the Lord, and responded generously, his own words had an effect on all who listened to him.

Listening for God’s word spoken to each of us uniquely, regardless of our circumstances, is the spiritual discipline of discernment. It requires some degree of silence, and it urges us to turn off all the noises that distract us and prevent us from hearing God’s call.

In this Sunday’s second reading (1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20), St. Paul reminds us that each of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit. This means that our lives are meant to be holy places, places of reverence and solitude. Paul draws the obvious connection to immorality, which is particularly offensive because we are, in fact, the body of Christ.

But we can also see how important it is to keep ourselves pure and holy if we want to hear and respond to God’s will for us. Selfishness and sin prevent us from hearing God’s call. They delude us into thinking that someone (or something) else is more important, demanding our immediate attention.

The Gospel according to St. John (Jn 1:35–42) describes the particular calling of two brothers, Andrew and Simon, who were clearly “spiritual seekers,” men who were looking for something more in their lives. John the Baptist pointed them to Jesus, the Lamb of God, and they asked him quite bluntly, “Where are you staying?” (Jn 1:38) The Lord’s equally direct response, “Come, and you will see” (Jn 1:39), sets in motion the conversion experiences that would radically change their lives.

The 2,000-year history of our faith is filled with stories about the conversion of women and men whose lives were transformed by their response to the Lord’s call. Many of these conversion stories are immediate and dramatic. Others are much more subtle and take place over many years. What is common to all is hearing the voice of the Lord (in whatever form it takes) and responding with an open and generous heart.

When the Lord calls, we must be ready and attentive. This is hard to do when we are busy and surrounded by all the distractions that bombard us 24/7. God’s call challenges us to find times and places when we can be quiet and alone. The greatest saints are men and women who found ways to keep their temples of the Holy Spirit (themselves) pure and spotless. They found times and places suited to spiritual discernment, and they listened carefully to God’s voice speaking to them directly in the most profoundly personal ways.

Let’s each of us find our own holy places. Let’s embrace the solitude that will allow us to recognize the voice of God and to respond with all our hearts: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. I come to do your will.” †

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