Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy New Year

I’ve been a bit lazy over the past few weeks alternating sleeping with increasing amounts of walking.  Feeling fairly well though there is still some persistent fatigue and a degree of insomnia.  I am going to celebrate a public Mass tomorrow (vigil Mass) for the first time since surgery.  The homily is below followed by some photos.  It doesn’t seem possible that one year ago I had come to Australia from Taiwan and was awaiting the formal beginning of tertianship.

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
15 January 2012
1 Sam 3:3-10, 19
Ps 40 2,4, 7-8, 8-9,10
1 Cor 6:13-15, 17-20
John 1:35-42

Voco, vocare, vocatus.
Those of you who sat in Miss Curran’s Latin class back in the old Plymouth High School have either already translated this or you are sitting there breaking out in a cold sweat at the sound of her name.  Even students who didn’t take Latin knew her as a formidable presence in the second floor hallways at the top of the stairs.  Terrific teacher.  Lovely woman.  But . . .  no one in his or her right mind would mouth off to her.  They don’t make ‘em like Agnes any more.  A pity.  She knew how to teach Latin.

Voco, vocare, vocatus.  To call.  To name.  To summons.  To call upon.  To invite.  To challenge.  There is overlap among the various translations  but each one has a distinct flavor.  Each English meaning has a subtle variation that is unique. Voco is the root of the word vocation.  The first reading, the psalm and the gospel are tied together by the idea of vocation.  Samuel’s vocation.  The apostles’ vocations.  And, by extension, our vocations. 

A standard dictionary defines vocation as:  1.  A regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited.  2.  An inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a particular career.  A vocation may be a call to a particular way of living that is independent of one’s job, or it may define how one makes a living.  Thus we can speak of the vocation to marriage.  The vocation to parenthood.  The vocation to caring for others.  The vocation to the creative life.  The vocation to teaching, a vocation Miss Curran lived to the fullest.  And, of course, the vocation to religious life in one of the orders for men or women as well as the vocation to the priesthood. 

We all have a vocation.  We all receive a call from God.  The challenges are first, hearing God’s voice to know what that vocation is and, second, choosing to accept and live out that vocation. 

One of the amusing parts of the first reading is that it took more than one call for Samuel and Eli to realize that God was summoning Samuel.   Poor Eli.  There he was sound asleep when the kid suddenly wakes him up to say “You called.  I’m here.”    He eventually understood what was happening and instructed young Samuel to reply “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” the next time he was called.   Samuel was obviously rattled when God called him again.  He replied, “Speak, your servant is listening”, completely forgetting to address God as Lord. 

Samuel’s vocation was to be a prophet.  Samuel was called to proclaim the Word of the Lord fearlessly, even when he knew that those who heard him were not going to like what he said.  That is in part the vocation to which we are all called as Christians.  We are called to proclaim the Word of God even if it makes us unpopular such as when we proclaim moral opposition to abortion, opposition to killing the elderly who are inconveniently ill, or opposition to a government that forces physicians, nurses, hospitals and pharmacists to act against their moral convictions by participating in these and other activities. 

John’s Gospel describes the call of the first apostles.  At the end of this particular reading we hear Jesus giving Simon a new name, Cephas—or Peter.  Peter’s life changed at that moment, just as our lives change when we hear and accept God’s call. 

Hearing the call to one’s vocation and acting on it is a funny thing.  There you are going about your daily life, working, playing, relaxing, and so on.  And then something changes.  You realize that this is the one I am called to marry.  This is the work I am called to do.  It can be a disturbing experience.   Like Samuel we may need to be called more than once.  But, God’s voice is insistent.  The call to a true vocation does not and will not go away no matter how much we wish we could simply continue with things as usual.

As Christians we share the vocation to follow Christ.  John said “Behold the Lamb of God” and his disciples turned, followed Jesus and stayed with him for the rest of the day.  Wouldn’t it be great to know the details of the conversation that afternoon?  Andrew was apparently so blown away that he went to find his own brother and brought him to Jesus. 

The last verse of the first reading is disconnected from the first ten verses. 
But it is critical to understanding vocation. “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him . . . . “  When we receive our vocations be they to marriage, parenthood, the single life, a life teaching or life in a religious order, the Lord will be with us and give us the strength necessary to live that vocation. 

I made a rare special request for today’s offertory hymn.  "Here I  Am Lord."  It is one of the most popular and well-known of the post-Vatican II hymns.  "Here I Am Lord" is based on today’s first reading.  Listen carefully to the dialogue between God and each one of us.  Will I choose to reply with the psalmist?  Will I choose to say with Samuel?

Here I am, 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.
Photos.  All of these come from various parts of tertianship or associated travel.   There is no rhyme, reason or theme to my choices except for liking them. 

Invoking Miss Curran in the homily made me think back to high school in the mid-sixties.  The small museum at Sevenhill had this typewriter very similar to the one on which I learned to type.  These had a lot more character than a computer keyboard.   The IBM Selectric, however, had the BEST keyboard feel ever. 

Pull out a camera and children will mug for it.  These are some of the kindergarten students in My Thu, Viet Nam. 
As John, Sister Cecile, and I pulled up to the motherhouse in My Thu a large procession emerged from the cathedral next door.  
The time in Warrnambool, South Australia was frustrating because the weather was miserable.  However, in a town that had been in drought for eleven years it was not a good idea to complain.  I only managed to get to the beach two or three times in three weeks.  This photo invokes Winslow Homer's seascapes.  
The ducklings hatched while we were making the long retreat at Sevenhill.  I went up to take photos of the rapidly growing cuties almost daily.  Love the one whose head is popping up above the others. 
Everyone knows I love Taiwan.  The crowded streets do not annoy as much as similarly congested streets in D.C.  
Finally, some of the pottery at the Taipei Saturday Flower Market.  
Next Saturday I will join the concelebrants for the Mass initiating the Right to Life weekend at Georgetown.  On Sunday I'll officiate at Benediction, Holy Hour and the Rosary prior to the beginning of the annual Cardinal O'Connor Conference.  Pray for the students who have worked so hard to organize this and who are not afraid to be prophets despite the unpopularity of their stance in some quarters. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jack - nice to discover this.

    I am on tertianship in the Phillipines - having a great time - and blogging about it too! We'll keep you guys in our prayers

    Tim SJ