God’s Call When He Chooses, But Our Environment Matters
Today’s first reading describes God’s call of a young Samuel as he faithfully ministered to the Priest Eli.
At that time, when a young Levite ministered to priests in the sanctuary, nearby accommodations were made available for that purpose. So it was, that Samuel was at his service post near Eli, when he heard the voice of God.
The idea then, was that a young man, as a result of serving the priests during his youth, could thereby better discern a call to his own priesthood. Not all Kohanim, the sons of Aaron by blood, became priests – but those who did, were from this special division of Levites.
As was the case with Samuel, God still calls us to His service. Through baptism we are all priests, but not all of us become ministerial priests.
Altar Boys and Girls
In the broadest sense, God calls all of us in some manner, some to religious life, others to married life. Both vocations grow the body of Christ spiritually and physically.
Our ancient Church tradition of altar boys assisting a priest at Mass, embodies the Hebrew tradition which we read about today. Putting future priests in the service of ordained priests creates a fertile environment where God’s call to the priesthood can be better heard.
The introduction of girls as altar servers, fosters the growth of religious orders as well. Religious sisters and nuns, often trace the genesis of their vocation to an early and active participation in the liturgy.
Knowing our Role in the Body of Christ
I was called to married life, but my vocation discernment did not end there. Was I also being called to the diaconate as well? Prayer and an obedient listening indicated I was not. As I suggested to others who were encouraging me, “the telephone is on the hook and Jesus knows my number.” Yet, He never called.
Instead, He called me to a ministry where I teach, with the support of my bishop, future deacons as an instructor of three different subjects that are part of the diaconate program for my Diocese. A lay person who assists the formation of future deacons. Go figure! A great blessing.
John the Baptist – Greatest Among Men Born of Woman
And now we come to the appropriate finish.
What made John the Baptist the greatest in Jesus’ view?
John received his call from God while still in Elizabeth’s womb. Lk 1:41. Later in John 1:19-26 the Gospel describes John the Baptist’s adult encounter with the priests and Levites. The Baptist understood his role in God’s salvation plan. He refused to be promoted to Messiah, something he was not. John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Messiah and knew this was the extent of his role.
John was also the greatest for his refusal to fall short in his ministry. John was martyred, by beheading, for his defense of the covenant of marriage which Herod and Herodias had publicly breached.
Let us strive therefore to follow God’s specific call for our lives.
Let us not seek to be greater than He called us to be, but neither fall short of what He needs us to be.
If we imitate John the Baptist, we will be great in God’s eyes.