I remember reading somewhere that when Mother Teresa began her mission in Calcutta, it was only after the 12th attempt to get permission that her previous Order allowed her to go. She had great perseverance, you could say, but it was also that the call of God was strong and she was listening. I also remember hearing that a bishop who knew her before she began this work, said ‘I wouldn’t have put her in charge of the sacristy’, meaning that he didn’t think she was capable of much. And yet look at what God did through her, not because she was a woman of remarkable ability, rather because she had a great openness to God and that is all God needs.
It is easy for us to get the idea that we have to be particularly talented or special people if God is to be able to use us, but that is not true. In fact if you read about the lives of many of the holy men and women throughout the ages, most of them are not people that you would probably pick to do anything extraordinary. God does not need great ability, just our openness and willingness. That also means that our age, or our physical ability is no hindrance to God. Moses was called to lead the people of Israel to freedom when he was in his eighties. A modern day Christian evangelist called Merlin Carothers who has written many books, felt that God was calling him to go back into ministry again when he was in his seventies, and so he did.
It would be a mistake to feel that there is not much more that we can do because we are getting too old or because our health doesn’t seem to allow us to do much anymore or even because we are not particularly talented. It is not so much about what God may call us to do, it is above all to be in relationship with the Lord. God only needs us to be open to his call. If we are open then God will do everything else.
The readings today are about responding to God’s call to us. In the Gospel Jesus calls the first four apostles, Peter, Andrew, James and John. In this case it says that they followed him willingly, giving up their work. Jesus must have made quite an impression on them. Perhaps it was the personal contact with Jesus which gave them the courage to follow him. Either way they did.
If we are also called to be disciples, what does that mean in practice? It means that we develop a personal relationship with Jesus. A personal relationship means a real, living relationship, just like we would have with any other human being. So it means we begin to learn more about Jesus, we speak to him every day, we spend time in prayer listening to him and speaking to him, every day. We find out what he is teaching us through the Scriptures and we try to live that. The surprising thing is what happens when we begin to do this.
We may not even believe that a personal relationship is really possible, but it is. Many people here have that kind of relationship with the Lord. But many more probably don’t and this is what we are being called to. Why is that so important? because that is when our faith begins to come alive. Then our coming to mass regularly begins to make more sense. It is no longer just something we have to do because we are Catholic. We come to the mass because we want to worship God and encounter the Lord Jesus in a very personal way. The more people respond to Jesus’ call to follow him, to have a real, living relationship with him, the more alive our whole community becomes. Then it also becomes all the more obvious what in particular we are called to do. That is when our faith begins to transform us and the world around us.
Most of us are not called to follow God in the way that Moses, or Mother Teresa or the Apostles were. But God calls all of us to enter into a relationship with him. It may not be a dramatic call, but it is very real. The most important thing is that we respond and no one can force us to do this. Even if we have been brought up as Catholics and taught about God and the mass, at some stage we still have to make that choice to believe in God and to accept this relationship with him. The more we live that relationship the more God begins to shine through us and that is how we tell other people about God, not by the words we speak, but primarily by the way we live our relationship with God.
It is only in God that we will find true and lasting happiness and that’s why He calls us to follow the path that leads to him. It is not an easy path, but it is the most worthwhile path and all of us without exception can respond to that invitation, but we have to consciously make a decision to do that.
‘The time has come,’ Jesus said, ‘and the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’