Our young adults have been among my greatest joys during the ten years I have been pastor at Christ the Redeemer.
The young men and women of this parish inspire me with their desire to know God, their commitment to the faith, and their willingness to bear witness in the hostile environments they encounter at work or school.
No fewer than three young people from our parish have become lay missionaries with Catholic Christian Outreach, while others have had leadership positions with CCO on campus.
But one thing has puzzled me: why have so few pursued the priesthood or religious life? Only one young man from the parish has gone to the seminary, and we’re still waiting for a young woman to enter a convent.
When I talk about this with our single young adults, I find that they are eager to do God’s will. They are completely ready to respond to his call.
Just one problem: deep down, many of them think that God is supposed to call them the same way he called Samuel in our first reading.
All they need is a divine voice in the middle of the night.
Well, I’m teasing a little—and I don’t want to make fun of our serious young people, because quite frankly we’re all a little unclear on how God calls us today.
And God’s call isn’t only about choosing to pursue a vocation to priesthood or the consecrated life. Every baptized person has a personal call—indeed, a series of calls—from God. One of the great challenges of Christian life is listening for those calls.
Like Samuel, we need to recognize God’s voice and open our ears as Samuel did, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
God wants to speak to every person here in the church today. No exceptions. Our relationship with him is a continuing conversation, not a one-time encounter.
Hearing God speak should be an everyday thing. Psalm 95 says “O that today you would listen to his voice!”
So how does that work? Most likely, it’s not going to be anything like what happened to Samuel, though it might be like Simon Peter’s encounter with his brother Andrew, where a family member or friend brings us God’s invitation.
But most of the time, we hear God’s voice by means of ordinary events. God spoke to me twice this week, once through the newspaper and once through the internet.
When I read in the National Post that the federal Government will not give summer employment grants unless an organization certifies it is not pro-life, I heard the Lord’s telling me to continue preparing myself and my parishioners for a new way of living as a Christian in Canada—as a citizen of an increasingly-hostile country.
And when I saw the socialmedia backlash against a couple who star in a home improvement show when they announced they were having their fifth child, I heard God asking me to start praying more and harder about how to build a Christian community in this parish with the strength to resist the world and its ways.
This way of hearing God’s voice is nothing new: in chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells the disciples to read the signs of the times when he teaches them about the end of the world.
Those who want to follow Christ in today’s world need to know where he’s leading, so we need to know the word he is speaking, Perhaps we should begin each day with the simple prayer Eli taught Samuel: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
Listening, though, is not the whole story. We’re given another important short prayer in today’s Psalm: “Here I am… I delight to do your will.” When we know what God wants of us, we must be ready to do it—and not as a burden, but as a delight.
Let’s end with a look at the second reading, because it contains two important truths. First, God’s will includes very specific teaching about sexual morality—teaching that is challenged constantly in our secular society. And secondly, following that teaching is not supposed to be a burden but a source of delight.
It’s a big mistake to think Christian moral teaching is all about ‘thou shalt nots.’ St. Paul speaks plainly about the prohibition, of course—you can’t get away from that. But look at what else he says! Christians seek to be pure for a reason: because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Because we belong to God. Because we are a gift from God. That’s something beautiful, not something burdensome or repressive.
The two prayers we’ve heard today can be reduced to five words: speak Lord, here I am. That’s a good formula for discipleship generally, a good help to choosing a vocation, and can lead both young and old to make better moral choices as well.