God’s Call is a theme that runs all through the Scriptures. Prophets like Jonah who hear and then act, St. Paul who wants the people of Corinth to heed that call, the disciples who struggle responding to it, and Jesus himself. To unpack its fuller meaning, we can ask the questions, where and what? Where does God’s call occur and to what does it summon us?
A favorite location for hearing the call is in some solitary spot, for instance the desert for both John the Baptist and Jesus. They walk out into the wilderness this bare, distraction-free place with its own kind of natural beauty, and there in the emptiness listen for the Spirit’s whisper within.
In our own time we might think of a solitary walk down a deserted beach on a clear Spring day. The sun sparkles off the water, the sea air gives off a salty freshness, and the waves break along the shore in a soothing rhythm. The stroller spontaneously tunes into something deeper inside.
Another place might be on a retreat, a few days set aside just to be quiet, reflective, and listening. Or it might be stopping into a peaceful Church late on a Sunday afternoon to just sit there before the tabernacle.
However, for most of us those kinds of interludes are few and far between. Here we might learn a lesson from those four fishermen, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, sweating at their jobs in the noonday Galilee sun. Precisely there in the middle of that noisy day, they perk up at the sound of a voice that not only speaks to them but does so in the lingo of their trade, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” – and women. (Mk1:17)
In those ordinary workaday places is where the message comes through – a call to do something, a summons to step out onto this other path that Jesus is walking. I recently watched a woman pass by a homeless man sitting on the street — and then then hesitantly turn back to offer him money for food. She listened.
We hear this call in both the quiet and in the bustle of the everyday. To the extent we let ourselves be attuned to the Spirit’s voice within (and even when we don’t!), can we decipher that God-sent summons.
The second question, what God call us to, finds a very compact answer in the behavior of those four fishermen. Hearing the Call, they leave their accustomed way of life to follow Jesus. They put themselves under the glow of his light and step out onto the path he was walking.
These two expressions, light and stepping out, recall similar sentiments the young black poet, Amanda Gorman, offered during the recent presidential inauguration. Might she have been hearing something of The Lord’s call when she proclaimed:
“When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
The new day blossoms as we see it.
For there is always light,
If only we are brave enough to see it
If only we are brave enough to be it.”
Centuries before, our own Vincent de Paul, during in a day of prayer with his priests and brothers, underlined the bravery required to hear and then follow through on the divine summons. “Let us be courageous! Let us go wherever God may call us. He will be our provider. Let us not fear anything.” (Vol 11, p 263. Repetition of Prayer, Aug 22, 1655)
That inauguration podium and words spoken on it might well have been one more place where we could hear God’s appeal. Might some of the different calls sounded especially in this past week, in words like that poet’s, be other responses to our questions — from where is God calling us, and what is God calling us to?
“Walking along the shore Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men and women.’ Then, they abandoned their nets, left their Father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men — and followed him.” (Mk 1:20)