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Called to follow

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January 13, 2011

By Terrance Callan

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: 1 Samuel 3: 3b-10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1: 35-42


All Christians have heard and responded to a call to follow Jesus. We may remember a single occasion vividly, or many less dramatic experiences throughout our life. Or we may not readily think of anything we would describe as a call. However, if we are Christians, it is because we have been called.


The reading from the Gospel according to John says that Jesus’ first followers had earlier been disciples of John the Baptist. When Andrew and another, unnamed disciple heard John say that Jesus was the Lamb of God, they followed Jesus. Later Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus to become His follower. Andrew convinced Simon to come to Jesus by saying, “We have found the Messiah.” When Jesus saw Simon, He gave him a new name, Cephas, i. e., Peter.


The reading from the First Book of Samuel tells the story of Samuel’s call by God.  \As a boy Samuel ministered to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest at the Lord’s sanctuary in Shiloh. One night, as Samuel slept in the temple where the ark of the Lord was, the Lord called Samuel three times. Since Samuel had never before heard the Lord speaking to him in this way, he assumed that Eli was calling him. Three times he ran to Eli to ask what Eli wanted. Finally Eli realized that the Lord was calling Samuel. He told Samuel that if Samuel was called again, he should say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” This was the beginning of Samuel’s long career as a prophet of the Lord.


Both of these stories make it clear that God’s call to us comes through intermediaries. Even when God speaks to us directly, as in the case of Samuel, we require the help of others, like Eli, to discern it. And often God’s call comes through the witness of others, as was the case for Jesus’ first disciples. They followed Jesus because of the witness of John the Baptist and later of Andrew. We must be prepared to hear God’s call to us through the people we meet. We must also be prepared to be the vehicles of God’s call to others.


The reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians does not speak directly about being called. However, it can be seen as spelling out some implications of accepting the call to follow Jesus.


Apparently some in the Christian community at Corinth were going to prostitutes. They justified this in part by arguing that satisfaction of the sexual appetite, like satisfaction of the appetite for food, was a relatively insignificant matter. Paul rejected their argument. He maintained that the sexual appetite is not really comparable to the appetite for food. In Paul’s view, sexual intercourse is something that engages the human being at the deepest level. For this reason improper sexual intercourse is much more significant than matters of eating and drinking. It is a profanation of oneself as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Paul argued, the Corinthian Christians should not go to prostitutes.


The readings remind us of the call we have received and of the need to live out the implications of that call.


Callan is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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