Readings, prayers and reflections are available below.
EPIPHANY II SUNDAY 17th JANUARY 2021
Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Revelation 5:1-10, John 1:43-51.
As the first disciples came to faith in Christ, so may the Church be faithful in following him.
May there be peace where there is strife and division.
Bring healing and comfort to the sick. Grant patience and courage to those who care for them. We pray especially for Mary Maxwell and Paul Evans.
May our faith in this world bring us to follow Christ until we come to eternal life. We pray for Alexander Rudelhoff whose body was laid to rest last week
It’s a curious thing that one piece of religious vocabulary which our society still employs is the word Vocation. Of course, given the shallow secularism which drives our culture, we tend to deprive the word of its deepest significance.
When we say that someone has a vocation, we usually mean that they are prepared to do a demanding job, often with not much financial reward. They do it because they believe in its value, and because they feel somehow impelled to do it. An obvious example, especially at present, is nursing, and we can add to it teaching, social work, anything which demands some degree of self-sacrifice for the sake of helping others. We’re right to honour the people who devote themselves to these forms of service, but we should remember that there is a deeper meaning than this to Vocation.
Vocation is a word rooted in a religious understanding of life. Its origin lies in the Latin verb, To Call. Even now we may say that someone has a calling to a particular work, notably when we say that they have a calling to a religious function, perhaps as a priest or a monk or nun. But the point to grasp is that vocation depends upon a call which comes from Someone other than ourselves, namely, God. Today’s readings show us some of the features which accompany a vocation, a call from God.
First of all, we have the story of young Samuel, serving in the temple of the Lord and hearing the voice calling to him three times. Straightaway, that makes two things clear. Firstly, that the call, however it is actually spoke to him, comes from God. It’s not born from within Samuel himself. Secondly, it comes as a surprise. He’s not expecting it.
Many people who have a vocation in its full religious sense will testify that this is how the call of God comes to us. One way or another, an insistent, nagging impulse begins to speak to us, a voice probably not audible, but real and quite distinct from ourselves. Furthermore, trying to ignore it doesn’t make it go away. It returns relentlessly until we give it serious attention.
Not only may the call of God be unexpected, it may also be unwelcome. Someone who has a good, secure job and a comfortable lifestyle is not always going to rejoice when the voice speaks which says, “my desire for you is the priesthood,” or, “I want you to put your job aside and go and work with the poor.” For that matter, it’s not necessarily an easy thing to let go of a pleasant single existence when the voice of God suggests that the call for you is to share your life with someone else, along with the real sacrifices that involves.
Because the call of God can come to us is so many ways, we may need someone to point out to us that we are actually being called by God to a particular life and work. Samuel needed the old priest, Eli, to show him that it was God who was calling him.
In today’s Gospel reading, we see vocation in a specifically Christian context. Jesus meets with the man Philip and simply says to him, “follow me.” That makes clear that whatever form the call of God takes for us, at root it will always be a call to follow wherever Jesus wishes to lead us. What’s more, the call of God doesn’t come with a job description. We’re not told where we will be led, or what will be asked of us, or what the rewards will be. It’s a bit like being asked to sign a blank cheque.
Philip answers Jesus’s call, and then fetches Nathanael to meet him. There’s another interesting point. Those who respond to the call of Christ become people who may be the means through which He calls to others. To encourage Nathanael, Jesus tells him that if he comes along, he will see great things. But Jesus doesn’t say when or how they will be seen.
A question presents itself. Is it possible to refuse the call of God? The answer, of course, is yes. We may be so engaged in our own pursuits that we make it difficult for us to hear God at all. On the other hand, we hear the call, but decide that we simply can’t face what will be involved if we respond to it; in which case the call will fade with time. But those who know that they have refused God’s invitation always know, deep in themselves, that something is absent in their lives, that there is a sense of loss and unfulfillment, no matter what else they may have done.
Because Vocation is a religious word, I’ve spoken of it primarily in terms of Christian tasks, so it’s important to say that when we are baptized into the life of Christ in the Church there will always be ways in which we can offer any good work which we do as our response to Our Lord. Nonetheless, we should be aware that as members of the Body of Christ in this world we may be called by God to a very specific Christian work. It may take us by surprise, it may not be what we would choose to do, it may come at the most inconvenient time, we may think we’re completely unsuited to it, but it can happen. If it does, we may need help and guidance from others as we come to terms with God’s invitation, but we must take it seriously. People who respond to a Vocation demonstrate to the world that God is not just an idea, or a pleasant addition to life when we have time, but a living God who calls living people and changes their lives.