Weekly Reflection (17 Jan 2021)

2nd Sunday Year B

1 Samuel 3:3-10,19
1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20
John 1:35-42

God is calling me. What is He calling me to? What is my response?

My dear brothers and sisters, has God called you? If so, what is God calling you to? Perhaps, He is calling you to serve Him in your vocation as a father, mother, spouse, church leaders, priest or religious? Or perhaps He is calling you to turn away from the sins of pride, lust, greed or envy? Or, if you have not heard the call of God, perhaps He is calling you but you have not heard Him?

The First Reading tells the story of God’s calling of Samuel to be His prophet. On the first three times God called, Samuel heard God, but he thought it was Eli who was calling him. This is the case with us sometimes. It is not because we did not hear God, but for one reason or another, we were not listening. In Samuel’s case, on the first three times, his impediment was that his heart was not open to God. Hence, while Samuel clearly heard God’s voice, he thought it was Eli who was calling him. As we reflect on this story, let us ask ourselves: if I have not heard the call of God, what are my impediments? Perhaps God is calling me to serve Him as a priest or religious, but I choose not to hear Him as I have other plans with my life. Perhaps God is calling me to be the carer of a sick member of my family, but I choose not to hear God’s voice because I am not willing to make the sacrifice. Or perhaps God is calling me to turn away from a particular sin I am struggling with, but I am too indulged in it or I am too proud to admit it.

“O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts.” (Ps 95:7-8)

If there are impediments to me hearing God’s voice, how do I overcome it? Ps 95:8 provides us the answer: “Do not harden your hearts.” Pray to God that we may open our hearts to His call. Often, when we pray to God, it is a monologue conversation. We come to God with our laundry list of wishes; and not only that, we sometimes even stipulate the manner in which God ought to answer our prayers! In doing so, little do we realise, we have become narcissists – we are more concerned with ourselves and our needs than about God’s providence. A self-serving and self-centred person is unable to hear God’s voice. All he can hear is his own voice. In this way, he is really is his own God! In humility, let us reflect: is this why I am not hearing God? How can we truly hear God’s voice? We have to listen to God with the ears of our heart. Let us learn from Samuel. On the final time God called him, Samuel answered, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (verse 9). From that point on in his life, Samuel was attentive to God’s call. “As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” (verse 19)

There are some among us who hear and answer the call of God. (Praise be to God!) However, as time goes by, as our calling bears fruits by the grace of God, we become proud and self-serving. We marvel at our achievements and forget that it is God who blesses us with success. As we become more and more self-centred, as pride creeps more and more into our psych, it becomes more and more difficult for us to hear the voice of God. This is the case for some disciples of John the Baptist. John was called by God in a special way. He was called to be the pre-cursor to Jesus, to be “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” (Jn 1:23). Then Jesus came to be baptised by John and began His public ministry. As Jesus gained popularity, John’s popularity waned. John’s waning popularity was in fact the direct result of him fulfilling his calling as the pre-cursor to Jesus. But some of John’s disciples were unsettled. Seeing Jesus as a competitor, they said to John, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him” (Jn 3:26). John replied, “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:28-30) For those of us serving in church ministries, how often do we make the same mistake as these disciples of John? This is a common scenario: I serve my ministries diligent and faithfully for many years. Then someone else come along and is becoming more successful than I. What do I do? I should rejoice when God raises up another worker! This person could become my collaborator or even my successor. Instead, I see this person as a competitor. I feel threatened that my popularity is being eroded. So I try to undermine and sabotage his work.

Let us learn from John the Baptist. In this week’s Gospel, as Jesus walked by, John openly proclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” (verse 36) As a result, two of John disciples followed Jesus. One of them is Andrew, who was so inspired, that he became a follower of Jesus and told his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (verse 41). Andrew then brought Simon Peter to Jesus, who anointed Simon Peter as the future leader of the 12 Apostles: “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (verse 42). What do you think was Andrew’s calling? Andrew had received an importantly calling to be one of the 12 Apostles. Part of Andrew’s calling was also to bring Simon Peter to Jesus. Andrew was not jealous of Simon Peter. Andrew recognised that he and Simon Peter each has a different calling. As St Paul said, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith” (Eph 4:11-13) Not all of us are called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers. We must learn to be comfortable to where and what God calls us to. Our calling is not a mean to bring glory, fame and recognition to ourselves. When we become obsessed with glory, fame and recognition, then we are just serving ourselves, not God.

But God’s calling is not always about ministry and mission. Like a loving parent, He often calls us to turn away from sins so that we may attain true happiness and fulfilment. The lure of sin is deceptive. It promises instant gratification but in effect rob us of true peace and happiness. This is true with all sins but perhaps more so with sexual sins. For example, the instant gratification of a casual sexual encounter outside marriage can extract a heavy price on the family. A single encounter can ruin the happiness of not just the couple but the children as well. The Second Reading was written by St Paul in response to the rather casual attitude the Corinthians had towards sex and marriages. The Corinthians had the misguided belief that bodily actions carry no moral value. They believed they may have sex with whoever they wish without any moral implications. Immoral sexual acts are prevalent in Corinth. They are probably even more prevalent in today’s secular and relativist world. In the Second Reading, St Paul preaches against fornication, which refers to sex outside marriage. But immoral sexual acts are not just confined to pre-marital and extra-marital sexual acts. In today’s context, St Paul’s teachings takes on a much wider scope. St Paul said our bodies are a member of Christ (verse 15). This union between Christ and man is our final eschatological destiny (Rev 21:2). Through his bodily infliction, Christ used his body to express his supreme love for his bride, the Church. We use our body to express love, most intimately in the case of sexual love. When a husband and a wife joint their bodies and spirit in sexual union, they are in fact foreshadowing the union between God and man at end-time. It is only within the context of marriage that the sexual act can become the total gift of oneself to the other, just as Christ made a total gift of Himself to us His Church. Immoral sexual acts – whether they are pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, masturbation, or same-gender sexual acts – relegate sex to a mere act of bodily pleasure. As we reduce our body to a mere object for personal gratifications, we lost sight of our eschatological destiny and bring sufferings upon ourselves, our spouses and children. As the Second Reading quite bluntly put it, we must not take our bodies which are members of Christ and “make them members of a prostitute” (verse 15).

My dear friends, God is inviting you and I to open our hearts to his calling. Let us ask ourselves: what is God’s calling to? Is He calling me to serve my family, community and humanity? Is He calling me to turn away from sexual sins that has been imprisoning me? Am I prepared to respond positively to this call? Or am I going to ignore it, preferring the false comfort of the secular status quo? May the Holy Spirit be with us as we reflect and contemplate. Amen.

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