The readings today are about God’s call to each of us to follow him, or maybe a better way to put it is to say it’s about our call to ‘respond’ to him. We usually associate being called by God with a religious vocation. But only a very small few are called to this way of life. However, all of us are called to respond to God who continually reaches out to us from the beginning to the end of our life. Not everyone responds, but the invitation is always there.
Centuries ago God revealed himself to his people, first through Abraham, then Moses and gradually to more and more people. Ultimately God walked among us in the person of Jesus who is fully divine and fully human and God continues to make himself known to us through all that Jesus taught us, because in Jesus God made himself known to us in the most complete way. You could say that God said all He had to say in the person of Jesus, which is why we keep going back to the teachings of Jesus to see what is God saying to us today.
One question that many people who are trying to take their faith seriously ask me is, ‘What is God asking me to do?’ ‘Am I supposed to do something in particular?’ For most of us God simply calls us to do what is before us each day. To try to raise our families as best we can, or if we are not married just to do our best to live the Christian life wherever we find ourselves. Perhaps it seems kind of dull and maybe it is a bit dull in one way, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important, because all of us have an effect on the people around us. How you live your life makes a difference, even if you are not aware of it yourself. Think for a moment of the people you work with. Some you like, some drive you crazy, some you would prefer were not there at all. But the fact is that you notice each one and they all affect you one way or another. We continually observe each other and we all affect each other too, mostly unknown to ourselves. I saw a sign in a pub recently which read: ‘Everyone brings happiness to this place: some by coming in, some by going out!’ There is a lot of truth in that. We all influence and affect each other by the way we live.
If our faith gives us hope, which it should, others see that hope in us. You may not even consider yourself to be someone of much faith, but the fact that you believe in God at all, and believe in an afterlife means that you have some incentive for living and for trying to live a life that is worthwhile. Otherwise why would we bother? It is easy for us to forget that that hope is something which not everyone has.
One of the great tragedies of our time is the problem of suicide. I’ve no doubt there are many reasons for it and no two cases are the same, but I am sure that a big factor in it for many people who end their own lives is a lack of faith. If we have faith it gives us a certain inner strength to keep going especially when things are difficult for us, because we believe there is something better waiting for us and so it is worth enduring difficult times. If I have no faith it will be very difficult for me to have any kind of hope when this world lets me down, and it will let me down.
Now going back to the Lord’s call to each of us. What does He call us to do? Simply to live and blossom wherever we find ourselves. We go on trying to deepen our relationship with God and as our faith grows other people see the hope that we have, even though they may never express it. I bet you can tell from the people you work with who has faith and who doesn’t, even if they have never said it to you. Our faith makes us live differently and behave differently. Of course none of us manage to live it perfectly—no one ever does—but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep trying. We just do our best to live the teachings of Christ wherever we find ourselves: Love God above all things, and love your neighbour as yourself.
Finally, I think it’s worth being reminded that it will of course make us different. Christians have always been different—like any group who believe in a particular way of life—but that is not something that we should be ashamed of or apologise for. The Church doesn’t have to apologise for teaching what it teaches. If you don’t want to be part of it you’re free to go. But if you do want to be part of it, and hopefully you do, then try to embrace it fully and not just to take the bits that appeal to you. It’s a complete package and it is the Lord who put that package together. Jesus makes it clear in the Gospel today that it comes at a price, but that’s not something to be afraid of. Everything worthwhile comes at a price and there is nothing more worthwhile than the path that leads to God.