Our lessons this week are about people receiving a call from God. This call comes in ways that cause initial confusion or awe, but also arrive with such force that the entire direction one’s life is altered and focused. This call has the quality of giving a person meaning and makes the earlier life seem meaningless by comparison.
In the reading from Samuel, the boy Samuel confuses the Lord’s call with the human voice of Eli, but eventually he understands it to be a word from God. In the Gospel we witness the call of Nathanael, who is amazed that Jesus knows him deeply at first sight. The Psalmist writes about feeling known in the most profound way that expands and enhances his sense of himself.
At a time when our identities are all too easily reduced to social security numbers and internet algorithms, it is easy to lose a sense that our lives have meaning. We look outside of ourselves to people we think matter, important people. We imagine the lives of the rich, famous and powerful, as the ones that really count. One can understand why people turn to the conformity of mass movements to find meaning. The identification with the group or the leader has a way of filling an inner void. Yet the call of God offers a unique identity a profound sense of understanding and purpose.
In scripture, we see that it is the experience of being spoken to and deeply understood that changes everything. The call of God engenders a sense of being part of the sacred and the coherence of all being. St Paul describes the change he felt from his calling by writing that he counted all in his past as garbage in comparison with the surpassing worth of Christ.
This new identity, after the call, is always accompanied with a purpose, a mission. For Samuel, the call was to deliver a message of conscience and accountability to the nation. For Nathanael it was to learn how to deliver the good news of God’s imminence, forgiveness and love to people, especially those who had been marginalized by the injustice of the world.
It is my belief that people are still receiving the call from the divine today. It comes in different ways; as a still small voice that becomes more clear with time, to a sudden awakening that challenges everything we have heretofore believed or valued. This call is not just for our personal peace of mind, but rather for empowering us to be agents of love, forgiveness and healing.