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MARCH 16, 2014: SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

Readings: 

Genesis 12: 1-4a
II Timothy 1: 8b-10
Matthew 17:1-9

The disciple of Paul responsible for today's II Timothy passage states one of Christianity's most fundamental truths: "(God) saved us and called us to a holy life"

Three Sunday's ago we delved into the biblical concept of "holy." Today we'll do the same for "called."

Our sacred authors presumed all their readers knew they'd been called either by Yahweh or by Jesus, else they wouldn't be listening to their writings. They were interested in learning more about the implications of responding to that call. That's why our Genesis passage is so significant. It contains the first call in all of Scripture.

I always remind my students that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are biblical "pre-history:" they're involved in simply setting the stage for what's going to happen in chapter 12. Our salvation history technically begins with Abram's call and his response to that call. This short narrative not only sets the pattern for all biblical calls, it also applies to our own calls, and the response both Yahweh and Jesus expect.

Notice Yahweh's first words: "Go forth . .. !" Nowhere in Scripture is anyone called to stay in the place he or she is currently inhabiting. All biblical calls demand the called person move, if not geographically, at least psychologically.

Abram's call initially involves a change of residence: ". . . from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you." Yet, it also includes a change in mentality. We presume before this Father of Judaism encountered Yahweh, his basic security revolved around where he lived and his family relationships. Once he says, "Yes!" to this call, he's putting all his security in Yahweh. And most important, Yahweh isn't telling him exactly where he's going. It's just "to a land I will show you." From now on, Yahweh's dictating his itinerary.

In the same way, back in Matthew 4 when Jesus' first four disciples said, "Yes!" to his call, abandoned their fishing equipment, left their families and began to follow him, they had no idea where he would eventually lead them. I presume they initially thought they were just agreeing to accompany a former Caparnum carpenter who was going town to town making people aware of God's presence in their lives. They had no idea this itinerant preacher would eventually be transfigured before their eyes. After his resurrection, when today's gospel pericope took shape, they would begin to see him not only as God's special Son, but as God actually among them, the fulfillment of everything their Jewish faith promised. It wouldn't have crossed any of their minds on the day they first encountered Jesus along the seashore that they would one day be giving up everything to carry on his ministry.

What would motivate anyone to make such a commitment?

Our II Timothy author gives us a hint. By doing so we become part of God's design for the world. Instead of just being observers of God's actions, we actually participate in those actions. Instead of being in the audience, we're up on the stage. We help God "destroy death and bring immortality to light." It's worth the insecurity.

Coming from a Catholic tradition in which only priests and religious women were regarded as being called by God, it takes a giant leap of faith for many of us to notice the calls God and the risen Jesus give all of us every day of our lives.

With the number of priests and nuns drastically falling, if the rest of us don't agree to become part of God's design for the world, this world will never become the world God intends it to become.