Called By Name

I have called you by your Name.

Just like the boy Samuel was called, so was I. Not an audible voice on my ears, but intensely in my heart, which made me run to my dad in his room in the early hours of the day to declare my intention for seminary formation. “I have called you by your name; you are mine.” Remembering people’s names — Every man and woman (and child!) likes to be recognized by name; when others forget, it is a blow to our personhood.

God knows everyone by name totally, intimately, always. None of us is ever ignored by him; like the birds of the air, and all created things, we are forever in God’s mind, under his care (cf. Mat. 10:29.) Even the person of no particular significance in his neighbor’s eyes, the born loser who lives in the shadows of depression most of the time — even he (or she) is precious in the eyes of God, perhaps more precious than anyone can suspect.

Dare To Be Different

Samuel stands for all the little, forgotten people. Just a boy, with no high illusions about himself, a servant and apprentice to the old man Eli; he slept at night in a little room like an altar-boys’ sacristy, at the religious shrine of Israel. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, he heard God calling him by name; eventually Samuel recognizes that the call is from God, and not just from the priest, so he submits himself, heart, and soul to listen to God’s word. Only then did Samuel discover his own potential, his new identity, the role he was to fulfil in life.

The child Samuel, though but a child, ministered unto the Lord before Eli. It was a provocation of the wickedness of Eli’s sons that the child Samuel shamed them. They rebelled against the Lord, but Samuel ministered to him; they slighted their father’s admonitions, but Samuel was observant of them; he ministered before Eli, under his eye and direction. It was the praise of Samuel that he was so far from being influenced by their bad example that he did not in the least fall off, but improved and went on. And it was a preparative for the honors God intended him; he that was thus faithful in a little was soon after entrusted with much more. Let those that are young be humble, diligent, and dare to be different which they will find the surest way to elevation. Those are fittest to rule who have learned to obey.

Live Out Your Calling

Some of us may feel a strong, but quite false, sense of our own identity. Our self-understanding derives too exclusively from our own achievements, failures, efforts, and ambitions. God’s plan for us hardly enters the picture at all or we dismiss it as too uncertain, too “spiritual” and remote from daily life. Biblical faith, on the contrary, insists that God calls us into relationship with himself on a day-to-day basis, always offering us life, and always making demands on us to live our life worthily in his sight. Called by your name. For Christians, specifically, it is relationship with Christ our Lord that lies at the heart of our identity.

Not only are we called by name to friendship with Jesus — we become “members of his body,” sharers in his spirit. Sometimes, in prayer, we can taste the rich privilege of belonging to Christ. More often, it is in the darkness of faith that we simply believe in it. But always, and in ordinary details of behavior, we are called to live up to the standard of love and truth set by the Spirit of Jesus. That is our real Christian vocation; and only by trying to live that vocation are we worthy of our name and like John the Baptist, we will point at him and tell others, Ecce Agnus Dei – Behold the lamb of God.

Later, we all hope, we will discover our full identity in God’s presence, when this life is over, and he calls us by name into the next life. Like the two apostles who wanted to know Christ better, we will be invited to “Come and see.”

[Readings: 1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19; 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20; Jn 1:35-42]

Fr. Nnaemeka Paschal Ajuka

Fr. Nnaemeka Paschal Ajuka, PhD., BCC., ACPE Certified Educator Candidate, is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia, Nigeria, and a Board-Certified Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC). He is a retreat preacher who loves his faith. As a sociologist, he cherishes and operates from the vertical and horizontal relationships with God and neighbor. He takes Saint Francis of Assisi’s prayer for peace “Lord make me an Instrument of Peace,” as his ministry mission statement. He is a care provider who meets human needs without discrimination. He has been actively involved in the pastoral ministry in parishes in Nigeria and in the US. Previously, he was an adjunct lecturer at Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary Umuahia and the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Nigeria. Currently, he is a Certified Educator Candidate with the Department of Chaplaincy Services and Education, University of California Health, Davis, Sacramento.

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