Isaiah declares, “Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb”; St. Paul describes himself as “called to be an apostle of Christ by the will of God”; and John the Baptist says he was sent to baptize with water to make him [the Christ] known while Jesus has been sent to baptize with the Holy Spirit. Our readings this Sunday are filled with the language of BEING CALLED AND SENT. Even we are invited to respond: “Here am I, Lord. I come to do your will.”
Inspired by the examples and testimonies of the Prophet Isaiah, St. Paul, John the Baptist, and Jesus himself—all CALLED AND SENT—did we really say what we meant and meant what we said when we responded “Here I am, Lord”? I am pretty sure that those were not the first words out of our mouths this morning when we got up. Sooner or later for celebrated Saints like John of the Cross, Francis, Clare, Ignatius, “Big Teresa” and “Little Theresa”, or St. Rita, it may have become normal to greet each day with such desire and commitment; but for the rest of us, unfortunately, it is not the norm. Too bad, because it would tend to organize our day and make more sense out of it than, for instance, a smart phone or an iPad.
What is more, how can we hope to pass on to our children and youth the conviction of being CALLED AND SENT BY GOD if we are not absolutely convinced of it ourselves? If we are bewildered about the truth of our own vocations, why should our youth be expected to be so sure about theirs? I hear a lot of complaints about the lack of willingness to talk about vocations to lay ministry and to ordained and vowed service in the Church. We are in fact more hesitant than ever to invite life commitment to service in the Church. Why is that? Why the hesitancy? Why or why not have you challenged your own children to consider religious life or priesthood? The leadership in the Church claims that GOD IS CALLING, but we are not listening and we are not being willful instruments of the invitation.
Fact is: Isaiah did not attend an academy for prophets, Paul first started by persecuting Christians, and both John’s and Jesus’ vocations started by being called to be the obedient children of their parents. BEING CALLED AND SENT is a lifetime project that can take many twists and turns along the way. And every vocation from God, whether it be one that is “set aside for sacred duty in the Church,” service to society as a scientist, teacher, artist, medic, or spouse and parent—every vocation needs active encouragement and support from you and me.
This Sunday’s celebration of the WORD and EUCHARIST is a strong invitation to get in touch with our own sense and level of conviction about BEING CALLED AND SENT BY GOD. One thing is for sure: say what we will about the need for more priests, but neither that vocation nor any other is likely to increase without our collective and renewed response, HERE I AM, LORD.