Suppose you are Christmas shopping in the mall, and you meet your all time favorite teacher, who recognizes you and calls you by name. You feel good.
Maybe you are at a town hall meeting and the Mayor opens the floor for questions. When you raise your hand, the Mayor calls you by name. You feel important.
Scriptures this weekend and next tell stories of people called personally by name by God for a particular task. This week the youth Samuel hears someone calling him by name. He thinks it is the priest Eli and later discovers that God calls him ultimately to be a prophet. From the gospels of John and Mark we hear about the call of the apostles. He called them personally. He called them by name. He even gave one a new name. To be on a first name basis with a political leader or a sports star may seem exciting. To be on a first name basis with Christ is nothing less than awesome!
Only God can know and call each of us personally. As humans we are limited as to how many people with whom we can have intimate relationships– despite the fact that some people claim to have more than 1,000 “friends” in social media. God is not so limited. St. Augustine explains that God loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love. God does not love us in general as a group but as individuals– called by name from the very beginning. God “chose us in [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him” (Ephesians 1:4). Before he created anything, he planned for us. We are as much a part of God’s plan as Jesus himself. He is the center of the plan of his Father, but none of us are afterthoughts.
When God calls us by name, he calls us to relationship with himself and to service of others. That’s what our scriptures tell us this week and next. God called Samuel and gave him a job to do. Christ called the apostles and sent them to proclaim the gospel to the world. When God chooses and calls us, he gives us the responsibility to live as disciples of his Son. We have the mission to represent him in our families and workplaces, in our schools and in our communities. We have many parish ministries serving others; through our annual ABCD we have the chance to extend the charity of Christ to the needy in South Florida.
Christ calls us to himself and sends us to others, as the familiar song by Dan Schutte expressed, “Here I Am, Lord” (1981), which paraphrases the story of Samuel’s call:
“Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.”