FROM A READING FOR JAN. 14, SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
'Jesus saw them following Him and said, "What are you looking for?" They said, "Rabbi [Teacher], where are you staying?" He said, "Come, and you will see." So they went...' -- Jn 1:38-39


Technology today means we never have to take a call if we don't want to speak to the caller. The name and phone number of the caller appears on our electronic device and, in a split-second, we decide whether to answer the call or let it go to voicemail.

What happens if the caller is God? Can we let the call go to voicemail? Will God leave a message if we decide not to answer?

It's important to recognize who is calling, but it's even more important, once we recognize the caller, to answer the call. If we don't answer, how can we ever understand the importance of the call or its meaning?

That was the dilemma that faced Samuel and Eli in Sunday's first reading (1 Sm 3:3-10,19). Samuel is awakened from sleep to hear someone calling him. He thinks it is Eli, his teacher. Half-asleep, Samuel awakens Eli and says, "Here I am; you called."

Eli, suddenly awoken himself, tells Samuel that he did not call him, and to go back to sleep. Three times, the Lord calls Samuel, waking him out of a sound sleep; three times, Samuel wakes Eli out of a sound sleep and asks if he called.

Redial
The passage tells us that Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, so he did not recognize God's call -- but Eli was. On the third call, Eli tells Samuel to answer, even though he could not identify the caller -- or did he identify the caller to be God? Samuel answers God's call each time by saying, "Here I am." Samuel is willing to respond to God's call, but needs confirmation that it is truly God who is calling.

Eli becomes the witness who affirms God's call to Samuel. Eli says, "Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, 'Speak, for your servant is listening.'" Samuel answers God's call, even though he can't immediately confirm that it's God calling. His willingness reveals his openness to serve God's plan of salvation by the faith he exhibits in answering the call.

Samuel's contribution to salvation history is significant. He is the prophet who calls David on behalf of God to be the anointed king of Israel, from whose line our Savior, Jesus Christ, is born.

John the Baptist, in this Sunday's Gospel (John 1:35-42), recognizes Jesus as He walks by. John says, "Behold the lamb of God."

Call-forwarding
John the Baptist speaks God's call by being a voice crying out in the wilderness, "Make straight the path of the Lord" (Jn 1:23). If John the Baptist was not able to identify the call, then Peter and Andrew would not have heard him say, "Behold the lamb of God." They would have missed their call, because John the Baptist was not there to give it to them.

St. Paul exhorts the Corinthian community to avoid immorality for they are the temple of the Lord: "The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body" (1 Cor 6:13). The Word that calls us as members of the body dwells within us. We are called to be a holy dwelling place for God's sacred Word, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Word that calls, and the call unites us to the body of Christ. Psalm 40 describes how God comes to us and gives us this new Word: "I have waited for the Lord, and He stooped toward me and heard my cry. And He put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God."

We are called to respond in thanksgiving by agreeing to do God's will: "Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will."

Jesus still calls. The problem is, we let the call go to voicemail even when we can identify the caller to be God. People ask, "Does God still call men and women to be faithful servants as priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders?" Yes, but we don't always choose to answer.

If we don't answer, we will never know what the call is about. Just as Eli, Samuel, John the Baptist and the first Apostles, Peter and Andrew, had a purpose in God's plan of salvation, so do we. To find our purpose, we must answer the call.