where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, "Here I am."
Samuel ran to Eli and said, "Here I am. You called me."
I lived alone for several years in Louisiana, a lone Franciscan and pastor of a Catholic parish. "A lone Franciscan" is an oxymoron; it's not supposed to happen. We are not called to the eremitical life of hermits or the monastic life of cenobites. We are friars; brothers of Saint Francis live in community. Also, I am the oldest of ten children so living alone doesn’t
come naturally to me.
So there I was by historical circumstances too complicated to explain, living alone. On one particular Saturday morning, again alone in an empty rectory, it was too much for me. As I knelt in prayer, I complained, “What am I doing here? Look at this! Another failure. My life has been nothing but failures! From Ohio to Australia to Minnesota and now Louisiana! This was your idea! You set this up. What do you expect?”
I distinctly heard a reassuring word, “I have no regrets.”
“Oh!” I said, “Well, in that case, okay.” And I went on with my prayer.
There are many stories in the Bible and the Lives of the Saints of the prophet’s calling. Our first reading from 1 Samuel tells us of God’s calling the boy Samuel in the middle of the night, and his initial confusion. Today’s gospel recalls Jesus’ invitation to his first disciples, “Come and see.” Very often the initial event sets the tone for the prophet’s mission. What he or she hears is more than a personal message; it is a commission to the Church and the world. Isaiah saw the Lord of Heaven and Earth sitting in majesty on his throne in the temple, and three different Isaian authors were overwhelmed with the seraphic splendor of God.
Moses heard God speak of compassion for his people; he immediately returned to Egypt despite a price on his head, to deliver them from bondage. Saint Paul heard, “Why do you persecute me?” and realized the Church is the Body of Christ. Any attack on Christians is an attack on God himself. Samuel gave his people the most sacred word of prayer, “Hineni! Here I am.” There is really nothing more to say in the presence of God.
When Jesus invited two of the Baptist’s disciples to “Come and see” he defined what it means to be a Christian. The follower of Jesus sees (witnesses) what the Lord does and tells others (witnesses) about it. Not to do so would be to violate one’s very nature.
Each year, on the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, the gospel tells us about the call of Jesus’ disciples. Informally today is known as “Vocation Sunday.” We should pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life and marriage. Each is a very particular vocation given to many of the Lord’s disciples; and the calling begins with a very personal experience. It may be a personal crisis, an awakening, or the suggestion of a friend that suddenly lights up the night. The Lord has his own subtle ways of breaking into our lives and no two experiences are alike.
Many married people tell of that moment when they knew, "This is the one." Sometimes it was love at first sight. Others experienced an awakening to what was obvious to everyone else. The Lord put his finger on that person and the visionary saw the glow.
Sadly, these brilliant moments are often missed. The individual heard and noticed but was too busy, too anxious, or too self-concerned. Perhaps they thought, ”That’s crazy; I can tell no one what just happened.” And they don’t, and nothing comes of it. Or they’re overwhelmed with a trauma of some sort and unable to apply the salve of God’s consoling word to the hurt.
The Church should be the community which hears and expects to hear God’s calling. We should be the safe place that says, “You heard the voice of God! Good for you! There’s nothing weird or strange about that; it’s how God works. So, what did he say? And, what does it mean to you?” That word becomes one’s message and one’s way of life.
“I have no regrets.” God knows I’ve made a mess of my life; and I continue to mess things up. But I assure others, especially the Veterans in the hospital, “God knew you a thousand years ago. He knew what you would do and what would happen to you. And he made you anyway, in his own image and likeness. And he doesn’t regret a thing about you!”