Answering a call

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jesus called them, and immediately they left their boat
and their father and followed him. (Mt 4:12-23)

What do you do when you get a call?

The question has two parts. One is what do you do when you get a call on your phone? The other, what do you do when you get a call from the Lord? The two are related. Let’s do a quick comparison.

When I get a call, my smartphone tells me some information about the caller. For some calls, the screen says “Caller Unknown”. Those I immediately terminate. For others, my phone gives me a little more information. “Potential spam”. Those also I immediately end. Some calls have a number and a location, but no name. These make me think. “Who do I know Houston TX? ” I used to terminate these calls too, but working at a conference center I get calls from people coming from all over the country. I have to think. Is there a retreat this weekend where people are coming from far away? These calls I sometimes answer and sometimes don’t depending on the circumstances. Some calls come with a name For these calls I have to decide: Do I answer the call or let it go to voice mail?

Now, let’s turn to how these relate to a call from the Lord.

The Lord calls and the screen says “caller unknown”. That means I need to get to know the Lord better. I don’t recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd speaking to me amidst all of the other voices.

The call comes but the screen says ‘potential spam’. I dismiss it as someone offering me something that I do not want. But if the call is from the Lord, it is something I desperately need. The Lord is not giving me spam, but showing me ways to get to know him through a change of habits, a new way of praying, and a new way of loving others.

The call comes and the screen doesn’t give me complete information. “Hmmm. A call from Houston TX?” For those calls, I need to look at the circumstances of my life and determine whether this is a call I should answer or ignore. Is this call from the Lord or from another? For instance, I see a beautiful sunrise. Is the Lord calling me to give thanks or is it just a beautiful sunrise?

Some calls most definitely have a caller ID: the Lord. I usually know what the Lord wants me to do. The Lord gives me a choice. Do I answer the call, or let it go to voice mail?

In the beginning of the gospel, Jesus receives a new call. It came as a tragic message. Today it might have been a text. “John has been arrested.” John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus, went about the countryside preaching the message, “Repent, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Now it was Jesus’ turn to continue what John had started. He began preaching the same message as John.

Jesus then called James and John, Andrew and Simon. If they received the call on their smart phone, what did the screen say?

Was it “caller unknown”? The gospel doesn’t say whether the fishermen knew Jesus before they were called. If they didn’t know Jesus, it would have been easy to reject the call. Instead, they left their entire life behind to follow a stranger. This speaks volumes to the magnetism and message of Jesus

Was it “potential spam”? There were a lot of itinerate preachers traveling through Galilee. They could have thought that he was just one more. They could have rejected the call immediately. Instead, they recognized that this is ‘spam’ that they most desperately need.

Perhaps the call had a number and a location, but no name. They would look at their screen and see a number from Nazareth. They would have heard about the miraculous birth by Mary of Nazareth and the boy from Nazareth who taught with authority in the temple. They would have decided this is a call they need to answer.

Maybe they knew Jesus, the screen has both a name and a number. Perhaps he had passed by numerous times before, engaging them in discussions about the Kingdom and the coming age. Perhaps his call, “Come follow me,” was completely expected. They received the call, and they answered it. They dropped their nets and became fishers of men.

The Lord is calling you today. He’s calling you into a new way of life. If the call comes on your phone, what are you going to see? Caller unknown. If so, get to know the one who is calling you. Potential Spam? If so, start taking your spiritual life seriously. Location, but no name. If so, give some thought to how and why you are receiving this call and how you should respond. If you see clearly it is the Lord calling, then leave behind your old nets and follow him.