See the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
1. I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). The calling which each Baptized person receives is marked by several characteristics. Maybe the most notable of these characteristics is its personal nature. We could look at the call of Isaiah the prophet which took place within a vision he had of heaven. Although the Lord seemed to ask the question of the whole Heavenly host who should be sent, Isaiah knew upon hearing that the Lord was speaking to him personally and that he had to respond.
2. Saint Paul too was spoken to in a personal manner. Jesus asked Paul why are you persecuting me? And then instructed Paul to go to Damascus where he would be instructed what to do. Saint Paul’s experience of Jesus was intensely personal and he received the Gospel directly from the Lord.
3. In the Gospel we observe the call of Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus spoke to them personally and invited them first to listen to His teaching, second to trust Him in casting their nets, and third to leave everything behind to follow Him. I cannot compare myself to these great prophets and apostles, but I would be lying if I did not admit that the Lord spoke to me in my heart to become a priest. Likewise throughout the seminary He confirmed my vocation- through the same voice which I heard not in my ears but in my heart. He also confirmed my calling through others whose task it was to help me on my path.
4. Although most people may not believe that God can or would speak to them in a personal manner, I believe He does just that. Of course, most of the time, Jesus uses the voices of others to speak to us. But the call to follow Him is no less personal. And if we get used to hearing His voice and not just our own, we will experience it.
5. Another characteristic of the call is that it is a call to holiness- to be like God Himself in whose image and likeness we were made. In other words, it is to be who and what we really are- the children of the Most High God. In receiving this call it is common to be made aware of our own unworthiness. Isaiah lamented his unclean lips, Saint Paul remembered that he was a persecutor of Jesus, Saint Peter fell to his knees and begged our Lord to depart for he was a sinner. The awareness of unworthiness may hit those who have discovered the one whom they should marry, I do not know. I do know that when I first accepted that the call to be a priest came from God, I was immediately filled with fear regarding my unworthiness. Time and time again the Lord had to reassure me. That is why the sacrament of Penance is so important. In any event, there was a saying in the seminary which fits all of us- God does not choose the worthy, He makes worthy those whom He has chosen.
6. God calls us not just from sin to be holy, but He also calls us from good things to better. Once Saint Paul became an apostle, his previous life as a rabbi was over. Saint Peter and his partners had to walk away from the greatest catch of fish in their career. God continues to call us to a deeper conversion and to make sacrifices. For example from the enjoyment of material goods to the giving of them for the sake of His kingdom. Or in the case of a married couple to commit to one another forsaking all others. Or in my case having to leave one parish family to love and to serve another.
7. The sacrificial part of the call might not even seem all that momentous. It might be returning a kind word instead of an insult, letting someone cut in front of us on the road, or listening to an elderly friend or relative tell a story we have heard many times before.
8. Although God’s call is intensely personal, it is not private. It is always for our good and the good of the whole Body of Christ which is the Church. When God calls, He does not force us. He did not force Isaiah, or Paul, or Simon Peter. Rather, the Lord desires the free gift of ourselves. The question we must reflect on is what we are going to do when we get it. I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8).