In our readings today we see two examples of the call of the Lord. These include the call of the prophet Isaiah as well as the call of Saint Peter.
Throughout our lives the Lord calls us numerous times. Some of the calls are larger and more significant as in a vocational call to a particular state of life. Other calls might be smaller, calling us to a particular short term activity or ministry.
Regardless, a call is usually scary because it is an invitation to move from a comfort zone. This implies an element of risk because we end up moving from a situation with which we are familiar into uncharted waters where the future is uncertain. In that regard there can be a certain natural element of fear, uncertainty and doubt That is associated with a call. To counter that fear, we try to control the situation ourselves. We do the calculus to determine what is it that we could gain and what is it that we could end up losing. But that doesn’t necessarily reduce our anxiousness.
In the stories today we have three actors who had a personal encounter with a Christ. They should be experiencing joy or hope or excitement or peace, correct? That might have indeed been their emotion at that moment. Yet all three were not sure about their call. Note their hesitation. Isaiah says that he “is a man of unclean lips.” Paul claims that he is “the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle.” Peter asks Jesus to depart from him because Peter is “a sinful man.”
Why are they hedging? They’re struggling with a God who is leading them to something that is deeper than their doubts. Who are they, really? What has God created them to be, in this place, at this particular moment in history? What does God have in mind for them to accomplish? They don’t know yet because the call is too fresh. It needs time to unfold. In the meantime, they feel unsure and disoriented.
Our church is in this position right now. Let me propose an example. We know all about the struggles that priests and bishops are having? What is going on? Why the difficulties? I was listening to a podcast from this years “Seek Conference” sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (or FOCUS). Four Catholics from two podcasts, “Catching Foxes” and “Catholic Stuff You Should Know” discussed this issue and what is wrong. They mention:
In the 1/11/2019 FOCUS/SEEK “Catching Foxes” podcast at 39:00 , they mention why the Church, and especially the priests and bishops, might be struggling:
- Sudden, unforeseen sociological changes in society
- An unhealthy individualistic survivor mentality among priests
- Obsessive workaholism
- Escapism that leads to compensatory behavior
- The theological and practical fact that material governance of the parish is not proper to the priesthood or episcopacy, yet this is where priests and bishops are spending an inordinate amount of their time.
What might an antidote look like? The Denver Companions of Christ were established December 12, 2007 in the Archdiocese of Denver. In their life, the Companions of Christ have three emphases:
- observance of the evangelical counsels within the context of their ordained ministry;
- commitment to a common life of prayer and fraternity;
- a dedication to the “new evangelization” including catechesis, spiritual renewal, and the fostering of vocations in the local Church.
This life is done through formation within in the Companions of Christ and the living of a life in agreement with the Ideals of the Companions of Christ.
The Companion priests also mused about communities of several priests living near or even with lay people (married and single), families with kids, people discerning vocations, older wisdom figures. They would live Intentional lives of scheduled prayer, communal worship and liturgy, shared service to others, and holding each other accountable to a “rule” or statutes or ideals. When proposed, lay people seem to think its a good idea. Many priests, especially older ones, are dead set against it. Why? Why are they hedging? In today’s modern times, they – too – are struggling with a God who is leading them to something that is deeper than their doubts.
A thought to consider: Too often we feel the burden of discipleship rests solely on our own shoulders. Our discipleship rests upon Jesus long before we begin to follow.
A prayer to say: Lord, Make us deeper than our doubts. Help us in the catching and surely in the being caught.