How many times did you wake up your parents in one night when you were a kid? I think I got up to 5 or 6, but I was sick and probably miscounted. You’re lying in the dark, not feeling like yourself, don’t know what to do, don’t know how to respond, so you go to your best sure source of help, usually Mom. Every time, Mom makes things better.
Samuel didn’t know who was calling him. I can imagine old Eli giving him a hard time, grouching at the boy. It took a while for Eli to realize who was calling Samuel, and he needed help figuring out how to respond. The disciples didn’t know what to do when this compelling stranger came by and asked them to follow him. They weren’t children, but this was unexpected, they were too old for this. However, the Spirit led them, and they all had radical choices: they left their old lives behind to follow Christ.
Jesus calls two disciples today without even talking. John recognizes who Jesus is, and two of his disciples start following Jesus right away; Jesus has to turn around and ask them why they’re there. They are so energized that one of them, Andrew, goes to his blood brother, a fisherman named Simon who’s probably just come in from a long days work on the boat, and tells him about this new teacher. When Simon comes, Jesus calls him by name before he’s even introduced and tells him that his life is going to take a new direction. Simon Peter probably knew his limitations, knew he was an ordinary guy, had no great dreams of something bigger. But Jesus called him.
What’s it like to hear God’s voice? You’d think once you were listening and thought you heard God, you’d get it right. The first compelling homily I heard about vocations was in 1980, before I became Catholic. Of course, I couldn’t do it. I thought I was listening to God’s voice already, going on a career of music ministry. The crisis points? Telling the difference between God’s voice and the voice of What I Wanted. It’s only after we can identify the second voice and clear it out that we can really respond to God’s call.
Where do we hear God’s call in our lives and what are we being called to do? It’s not always obvious, and even if something feels right we need to take our time. The Sin of Pride is sneaky. We always get the feeling that what we want to do most is what God wants from us. But we have to fine tune our hearing, really listen to where we’re being called after we let go of what we want.
Openness to God’s call takes time. It takes openness to God’s Word, to the Spirit speaking through it. It also takes a Church, it takes Christ. Christ calls us through God’s Word, through the Eucharist, His Body and Blood. When we respond to God’s call, something wonderful, something blessed happens. It means God’s going to touch us, and through us, touch the world.
All we can do is echo those words a small boy said to a strange voice in the dark thousands of year ago: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”