Call and commitment

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 18

1 Samuel 3:3b-10,19; Psalm 40:2,4,7-8,8-9,10; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a,17-20; John 1:35-42

I suspect that all of us can relate to being called sometime in our life. I think of being called by my mother to help with a project she was undertaking. I also think of being called to awaken in the morning for school.

A call from someone has so many possibilities for response. Some calls are easy to answer; some take much more thought and decision. Samuel, in the first reading, seemed ready to respond to the call he heard in the night, yet did not understand its meaning. Calls can be that way — we can miss the impact of the call because either we are not aware of its meaning or we simply are unwilling to listen enough to discern its meaning.

The Gospel presents an interesting portrait of a call. Jesus is walking along the road. It is John who takes notice of Jesus and points him out to the disciples. Jesus turns around to invite the disciples with a question, “What are you looking for?”

The ensuing conversation between Jesus and the disciples includes three key action words: “to seek,” “to stay,” and “to see.”

The word “to look for or seek” carries a deep meaning. It implies much more than simply using our eyes to see something. It suggests some soul searching. What is it that you want in life? What are you seeking? What is the desire of your heart? Jesus’ question is layered with all these meaning. He asks us, in this Gospel, what we are seeking?

The disciples respond to the “call” of Jesus by asking where Jesus is staying. Again, in the Gospel of John, the word “to stay” carries many layers of meaning. For John, the word means “to dwell with.” Jesus came to earth to “to dwell” among us, to “pitch his tent with us.” He calls the disciples and us to “pitch our tent” with him.

Are we willing to stay with Jesus, to live in his tent? Our “staying” is a lifelong event. To stay with or dwell with Jesus is to be willing to give our attention to his ongoing invitation to move ever more deeply into relationship with him. It is to allow ourselves the quiet to listen to what he has to say to us. It is the willingness to look inside ourselves to be aware of the presence of the Spirit within, ever moving us forward in faith to places unknown.

There is comfort is this “staying” and there is risk in this “staying.” We give ourselves the opportunity to enter into either/both. Faith is the impetus that gives substance to this “staying.”

Jesus invites the disciples to “see.” Again, in John’s Gospel, the word “see” carries a multitude of meanings. We see with our eyes what is in front of us. We see with our minds how to solve a situation we face. We see with our emotions the reality of a relationship. We see with faith the call of Jesus inviting us to a life of intimacy with him.

A life of intimacy with Jesus is surely what a lifetime of seeing in faith will create. That intimacy, ironically, will compel us to “see” Jesus in the world around us. The inward call and the outward commitment go hand in hand.

What are you seeking? Where are you willing to stay?

A member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB, has been pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights since 1980.

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