Sunday 14 January 2024 Epiphany 2, Second Sunday in Ordinary time
Listening to God’s call in our everyday lives
1 Samuel 3.1-10; John 1.43-51
Context: a committed and enthusiastic mixed congregation with many young professionals at Roman Catholic Sunday Mass
Aim: to be encouraged to actively listen to God’s voice in everyday life
A CALL FROM A FRIEND
I had a call from a friend the other day. She’s a good friend who used to live round the corner and pop in whenever. But now she lives miles away and keeping up our friendship has to be a bit more intentional. So, we regularly give each other a call - to chat, to see how things are, to share all our news.
And I was thinking about her call when I was pondering on the call we hear in 1 Samuel today. God’s call to Samuel feels dramatic, life changing, an extraordinary and therefore a rare event.
My experience of God’s call in my life is much less dramatic. It comes in many small ways, in ordinary spaces, during ordinary days, but it is still life-changing, giving my life direction, meaning and joy and ultimately leading me towards more committed discipleship.
And I wondered, what if we think of a call from God as actually very similar to a call from a close friend? God calling to check in with me, to hear how I am and to share God’s good news. If we bring it into the ordinary, among the things we expect to hear, how does that change our sense of God’s call for us personally? And how does it change who God is for us? God ‘out there’ a long way away, suddenly seems very close.
My friend knows and loves me; so does God. My friend wants to hear all my news; so does God. My friend always wants the best for me; so does God. This call, God’s desire to lead me on the right path, now feels very precious, something I don’t want to miss.
WHAT STOPS ME HEARING GOD’S CALL
So, I started thinking about what stops me hearing God’s call. What gets in the way? Well first of all, like Samuel, I sometimes just don’t recognise God’s voice.
I was talking to someone the other day who had done a TakeTime guided meditation. In it she had placed herself in a Gospel story and sat down next to Jesus to share with him what was on her mind and in her heart and then to listen to his response. She described what Jesus said to her as gentle and kind, full of love and encouragement, and then added, ‘But that was probably just me, just what I wanted to hear.’ But why would Jesus, God made man, not want to speak words that are gentle and kind, full of love and encouragement? Our God is love! Unconditional love! And Jesus teaches us to pray, ‘Give us our daily bread.’ We ask God to give us all that we need to nurture and nourish us, to give us fullness of life, and that includes knowing that we are loved.
In today’s Gospel, Nathaniel illustrates beautifully something else that can definitely get in the way of hearing God’s call. His initial response on hearing that Philip has found the Messiah is, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ How often do our pre-conceived ideas and prejudices get in the way?
It’s so easy to think that we already know who God is, and to look for God in familiar places and maybe among people who look and sound like me. How wrong we can be. Our wonderful, indescribable mystery who is God refuses to be pigeon-holed, limited by our limitations.
I have found that I meet God and hear God’s call in the most unexpected and surprising of places. And each time, I give thanks for the reminder to stay open; to listen to God’s voice everywhere, in everyone and in all of creation.
So, this week, let’s be intentional about listening to God’s call.
The scriptures are a good place to start. Reading or listening to the Gospel of the day and just noticing what catches our attention. It may be a word or a phrase or an idea that comes from the text. Then mulling it over as we go through the day, holding on to it rather like a mantra that we remember and repeat every now and then, bringing us back to God, opening us up to hear God’s call.
The Pray-As-You-Go app is really helpful with this. It’s 10 minutes long and you can listen to it when travelling or anywhere. It has the day’s Gospel and a few questions to ponder.
Walking is another really good way of staying open. Consciously walking a bit more slowly, aware of our surroundings, again just noticing what catches our attention. Letting ourselves hear God’s call to notice, to connect, to listen.
I’m looking forward to chatting with my friend again; this week I’ll give her a call. And it will remind me that God is calling me too; to listen, to grow in relationship, to walk the path of discipleship.
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