How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
As we leave the Christmas season behind and return to "Ordinary Time" we begin reading two books, the First Book of Samuel and the Gospel of Saint Mark.
Both books begin with stories about certain individuals who are called to serve the Lord. First Samuel tells us of the baby who was given to his mother in answer to her prayers. She returned the "oblation" when she gave him as a nazirite back to the Lord. A few years later the boy would personally hear the Lord calling him in the dead of night.
Today's gospel reading concerns Jesus' calling his first disciples: Simon, Andrew, James and John. The responsorial Psalm 116 invites us to ponder our own vocations, "How shall I make a return to the Lord?"
People don't often receive a calling "out of left field" or "out of the blue." Rarely does anyone in mid-America have a heavenly visitant who directs them to the jungles of South America or the frozen tundra of the Yukon. If someone were to were to ask me about such a vision, I would be very suspicious. Saint John urges us to "test every spirit" and that outlandish impulse should certainly be tested.
More often, people have an experience which startles them into action. A child watches a loved grandparent die and decides to become a nurse. A student encounters sexism and enrolls in law school. Some people see friends humiliated by racial discrimination, beaten by abusive spouses, or neglected in hospitals and set out to right these wrongs. Their anger becomes a sacred passion burning in God's sanctuary. Before his trip to Damascus Saint Paul watched Stephen die. Although he continued for a while to oppose Stephen's cause, the horror of mob violence may have unsettled him so deeply that he was prepared to listen to the Voice that changed his life.
Others might follow a calling because they admired a teacher, tradesman, business person or religious. They saw grace in action and wanted, like Elijah, to wear that mantle.
The response to God's call will be neither outlandish nor surreal; it will blossom as naturally and as timely as a rose appears on a rose bush in the flush of summer.
When we begin in prayer with. "How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me?"
and we answer, "The cup of salvation I will take up,and I will call upon the name of the LORD,"
then the future opens like a doorway into eternity.