Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Homily and Some Black and White

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
1 Sam 3:3-10, 19
Ps 40 2,4, 7-8, 8-9,10
John 1:35-42

Voco, vocare, vocatus. 

To call. 
To name. 
To summon. 
To call upon. 
To invite. 
To challenge. 
There is overlap among the various translations.  Each one has a distinct flavor  and subtle variation that is unique. 

Voco, vocare, vocatus. 

This 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, thus by extension, our vocations. 

Voco, vocare, vocatus. 

She heard the call the first time she went there. The sound was faint.  Perhaps it was easier to hear when remembering the moment than it was when it happened.  The invitation became more insistent over time. The voice of God became more challenging. The urgency in the summons became more easily discernible. Reflecting on it over 40 years later she wrote, “Many people don't understand the difference between a vocation and your own idea about something.  A vocation is a call – one you don't necessarily want. The only thing I ever wanted to be was an actress.  But I was called by God.”  The woman is Mother Dolores Hart, of the Order of St. Benedict, former movie and Broadway star and, for the past 51 years, a cloistered nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT.

A standard dictionary defines vocation as:   "A regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited. 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 what other's call one's job.  The vocation to marriage.  The vocation to parenthood.  The vocation to medicine.  The vocation to the creative life.  The vocation to teaching.  The  vocation to religious life in one of the orders for men or women.  We are all graced with a vocation.  We all receive a call from God.  The first challenge is to hear and discern God’s voice over the clamor of daily life so as to learn what that vocation is. The second, and greater, challenge is to accept and live out that vocation. 
The first reading is amusing.  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 wakes him up and says, “You called.  I’m here.”   Eli eventually understood what was happening and instructed young Samuel to reply “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”  Samuel was obviously rattled when God called him that third time.  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.  Being unpopular is the price of being a prophet.   It is time to become unpopular again.

The annual March for Life is this coming Thursday, 22 January, in Washington, D.C. Talk about being unpopular. Try proclaiming one's support for life at a cocktail party in Cambridge, or in Manhattan or among the glittery types in Hollywood. Those who proclaim moral opposition to abortion, those who decry killing the inconveniently ill elderly, or even not so elderly, or those who state opposition to a government that forces physicians, nurses, hospitals and pharmacists to act against their moral convictions by participating in these and other activities are derided, called names, and spat upon.  Such is the life of the prophet.  Such is the life of a disciple of Jesus.  Such was Jesus' life.

John’s Gospel describes the call of the first apostles.  We hear Jesus give Simon a new name Cephas—or Peter.  Peter’s life changed at that moment, just as our lives change the moment we realize and accept our vocations.

Hearing the call to your vocation and acting on it is a funny thing.  There you are going about your daily life, working, playing, relaxing, perhaps simply watching the Patriots, 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 very unsettling experience.   Recall Mother Dolores' words, "A vocation is a call – one you don't necessarily want."

Like Samuel we may need to be called more than once.  But, God’s voice is insistent.  The call to one's vocation does not and will not go away no matter how much we, and sometimes those we love, wish we could simply continue with things as usual.   As Christians we share the vocation to follow Christ.  In the Gospel we heard that John said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And John's two disciples turned, followed Jesus, and stayed with him for the rest of the day.  I suspect they remained with him for life.

“Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him . . . . “ 

When we receive our vocations be it to marriage, parenthood, the single life, a life teaching or life in a religious order, the Lord will be with us.  He will give us the strength necessary to live that vocation. 

I made a special request for today’s offertory hymn at both churches where I celebrated Mass.  Here I Am Lord.  The hymn emerges from 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 come to do your will.
I have heard you
calling in the night.
I will go, Lord.

Be assured that the Lord will lead you.

Black and white photography is my first love as far as taking photos goes.  The first role of film I ever shot was an ASA 400 black and white using a Canon AE-1.  I drove down 45 West from Danville to State College, PA stopping along the way to take photos.  It remains a fond memory.  Black and white allows one to focus on shape, texture, composition and other characteristics rather than being distracted by color.  

The first is the desk, bed, chair, and rug in a recently vacated room at the retreat house in Gloucester.  One of the retreat directors moved to Campion Center.  This had been his room.

 Campion Center was ready for a baptism, a very rare event, the day before the Baptism of the Lord (and the end of the Christmas season).  Did a lot of post-processing here including removing a cotton ball between the two amphora and replacing it with Christmas lights.  It would have been much more difficult to pull this off in color. 

 A tree clinging to the side of a cliff on Wu-ling Mountain in Central Taiwan.  Took this on the way home from Australia when I stopped in Taiwan for ten days.  

 Another one from Taiwan is Sun Moon Lake, one of my favorite places on earth, in January of 2011.  It was getting late and quite chilly.  The mist was settling in.  Once we returned to the hotel it was time for dinner and a couple of hits of Scotch.  

The view from the Georgetown University Campus one morning.  The fog was rising from the Potomac.  The buildings of Arlington, VA are visible in the distance.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

No comments:

Post a Comment