The Call Narrative

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The Call Narrative

Postby pilgrim-seeker_tom » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:17 am

Is the "call narrative" simply soothing bed time reading?

Nothing creates more interest for Scripture’s original readers than the “call narratives” many of our sacred authors include in their writings. When Yahweh or the gospel Jesus asks someone to be a disciple, everyone listens carefully to the details. Their interest isn’t hard to understand. Those original readers feel called in a similar way. Though times and circumstances differ, several elements are always the same.

First, the divine caller usually demands the person who is called “move.” Neither Jesus nor Yahweh says, “Stay there! Don’t move a muscle! Just keep doing what you’re doing!” Movement is always entailed, either physical or psychological or both. No one responds to such a call without experiencing change.

Second, the individual who’s called is expected to follow not some intellectual ideals or principles, but a real person. When we deal with any person, there’s always something new to learn about him or her. Nothing stays the same. Those not open to the person aren’t open to the call.

Third, whoever is called is now expected to put his or her security in the person doing the calling. Whatever or whoever they consistently fell back on before they now push into the background. They trust only Yahweh or Jesus. Their personal strength shifts from former places, people and ideas to someone completely “other.”

Samuel discovers in today’s first reading, when God calls there’s no hesitation, no thinking it over. Eli correctly instructs the boy, “. . . If you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Yahweh, for your servant is listening.’” In a very deep sense, if he’s not already listening for a call, he’ll probably pull a “Sgt. Schultz” and hear nothing even though the call is coming loud and clear. Eli and Samuel’s misunderstanding tells us we can easily mistake the actual caller for someone else. We’d better know whom and what to listen for, else we’ll think it’s just a figment of our imagination; something we can slough off at will.

The call might even come through someone with whom we’re already familiar but are now looking at from a different perspective. That seems to be what happens in today’s gospel pericope. Along with Andrew and Simon, Jesus already appears to be one of the Baptizer’s followers when John points to him and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

Now because of John’s leadership and authority, whatever this Galilean carpenter says and does takes on a deeper meaning. When he, for instance, asks, “What are you looking for?” he’s referring not just to an immediate need; in this context, he’s asking the pair, “What do you want out of life?”

The two eventually discover Jesus’ “Come” is an invitation to become a new person. He calls them to go beyond their here and now and uncover a part of themselves they’ve never before noticed. That’s why he quickly changes Simon’s name to “Rock.” Those who respond to God’s call not only uncover more and more about God, they also uncover more and more about themselves.

That’s exactly what happened when Paul responded to the risen Jesus’ call on the Damascus Road. He not only discovered the Christ was present in those he was persecuting, he also discovered he/she was also present in him. No longer did he, as a good Jew, have to regularly visit the Jerusalem temple. Once he answers Christ’s call and moves to a new frame of mind, he discovers his own body “. . . is a temple of the Holy Spirit . . . .” What he thought outside himself is actually inside himself.

Hard to convince someone of such a wonder who’s never said “Yes!” to the risen Jesus. But, on the other hand . . . .
"Do not be influenced by the importance of the writer, and whether his learning be great or small; but let the love of pure truth draw you to read. Do not inquire, “Who said this?” but pay attention to what is said”

Thomas Kempis 1380-1471
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