The Call and the Invitation
Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has said that “God made [us] because God loves stories.” Like God, we, too, are addicted to stories. Theologian John Shea puts it beautifully
No matter our mood, in reverie or expectation, panic or
peace, we can be found stringing together incidents, and
unfolding episodes. We turn our pain into narrative so
we can bear it; we turn our ecstasy into narrative so we
can prolong it. We all seem to be under the sentence of
Scheherazade. We tell our stories to live.
As Christians we live out our stories in a special context, the context of the Sacred Story. When we come to worship together we come to hear that Sacred Story so that we can connect it to our own personal and communal stories. This frame of reference might serve us well this Sunday as we reflect on two beautiful Biblical stories and try to connect them to our own.
Samuel, in the first reading, is called by God. What a story! It has mystery, excitement, expectation and a wonderful ending…which is really a beginning. We, too, have been called by God. God called each one of us by name at our baptism, which in a very real sense was a beginning. Most of us did not hear that call or the response made by our parents and godparents. But as we grew older and grew into our faith, we learned to continue to listen to God’s call and we today are invited to respond, like Samuel, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
In the Gospel we read another great story. Some of the Baptist’s disciples are intrigued by his deference to Jesus, and they seek Jesus out to see where he lives—to determine what he’s all about. Their curiosity prompts one of the most enticing dialogues in the Gospels:
Jesus: What are you looking for?
The Two: Teacher, where are you staying?
Jesus: Come, and you will see.
This, too, is our story. We are so much like those two disciples. Like them, we are already disciples. Like them, we are intrigued by Jesus. The more Jesus is “pointed out” to us--the more we learn about him--the more we want to know. Just what is he all about? Where does he live? This curiosity actually nourishes our faith for it draws us ever more deeply into the mystery which is Jesus. The invitation, “Come, and you will see” propels us to follow, to become more committed and focused disciples. It is an invitation to intimacy—an intimacy reflected by embracing his values and his vision.
If these two biblical stories are models for our own discipleship, they are also an image of our Eucharistic celebration. What we do here each Sunday is a response to a call and an invitation to enter more deeply into our relationship with Jesus in the Word, in the Sacrament, and in the Assembly.
We enter more fully into the Word simply by identifying our story in the Sacred Story. We embrace the willingness of Samuel to listen for the call. We echo the response of the psalmist to proclaim the work of justice. We enter into the mission of Jesus to know more fully his compassion and self-sacrifice. When we strive for this kind of a connection to the Scriptures, the Sacred Story sanctifies--makes holy--our lived experience so that what we do and say during the coming week will be colored by the Sacred Story we have embraced as our own.
In the same way, we enter more fully into the Sacrament by understanding that same powerful identification: we become one with the Body and Blood of Jesus. For all our bowing and professions of faith in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, I sometimes wonder if we really, really understand the meaning of this Sacred Meal. Just as the Sacred Story has the power to make our stories Sacred, so does the Eucharist have the power to transform our very being into a Sacrament--into being the living presence of Christ in the world!
This is why the Second Vatican Council encouraged us to see the Real Presence also in the assembly gathered to celebrate these mysteries. If what happens to each one of us through Word and Sacrament is so powerful, can the human imagination fathom the implications of this celebration on us as a community? What if every one of us actually did embrace the fullness of the Word and the Sacrament? What if we did in fact seize every opportunity this week to witness by what we do and say the call and invitation of the Sacred Scriptures and this Eucharist?
This week we have plenty of reasons to embrace the story of the call as well as the invitation to a deeper intimacy with Jesus. Our families, our community, our country, indeed, our Church are all desperately in need of Gospel values and vision. The Word and Sacrament we celebrate today cannot be isolated within the walls of our churches. We are compelled to live the story, to give flesh to our faith by how we approach life this week.
And so the story continues….