Take Five for Faith Podcast No. 5 — Call and Response
Take a Break for Faith Podcast Transcript
Take Five for Faith monthly meditation podcast – Call and Response.
Welcome to your Take Five Monthly Meditation. This month our theme is “Call and Response.” We often struggle to find our way in the world, unsure of which path to take or what “God’s will” might be for us. Is God calling me to a certain life path, and if so, how can I discern that call?
We’ll start with a story to help us settle in. It comes from a friend:
When I was 12 years old, my class went on an overnight retreat run by monks. Caught up in the emotion and religious fervor of the moment, we each prayed, “Please, Lord, help me to spread your word.”
At the time I didn’t know what I meant by the prayer or where it would lead me. Years later, I realized that my prayer brought me to my work as a Catholic publisher, helping others in their efforts to spread the word.
That’s the beauty of Jesus’ call. Rather than assign specific jobs to each of us, Jesus accompanies us on our journey and shows us how our desired vocation can serve the realm of God. As one biblical commentator put it: “He invites carpenters to build his temple, physicians to heal immortal souls, merchants to invest in pearls of great price,” and fishers to become fishers of souls in service to God. As we grow in faith, our daily work doesn’t necessarily change but our intention and purpose can grow. Like Spirit-filled eighth-graders and Jesus’ first disciples, we can strive to spread God’s loving message in all that we do.
Let’s move more deeply into our theme with a reflection on the biblical roots of God’s call in our lives. The notion of God’s call is not marginal to Scripture but fundamental to the Bible’s understanding of our relationship to God. Recall those encounters by the Sea of Galilee in the opening chapters of Mark’s and Matthew’s gospels. Fishermen Simon and Andrew casting their nets in the sea; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, sitting in their boat mending their nets—they have no idea what is about to happen to them, something that will change their lives forever.
Jesus, walking by the seashore, calls to them, “Come, follow me and I will make you fish for people.” They drop their nets and leave everything behind to follow him.
The Bible offers many other stories, like the story of Peter’s call being restored, which appears at the end of John’s gospel, after Jesus’ crucifixion. Here’s the scene: discouraged disciples halfheartedly fish in the Sea of Galilee. On the shore, a figure appears with a charcoal fire burning—it is someone unknown but hauntingly familiar. He issues directions on where to fish and the fishermen haul in an abundant catch, which prompts a heart-pounding recognition.
Peter, knowing who awaits him, plunges into the sea and swims ashore. Sharing a breakfast of bread and fish by the sea, Peter’s joy at seeing Jesus is mixed with a heavy dose of shame as he recalls how he denied Jesus three times. And then comes the moment of reconciliation: “Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?” Three times Jesus asks, echoing Peter’s denials. Then Jesus invites him, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” Peter’s discipleship is restored; his call is renewed.
Many of the call stories contain similar features:
They make clear that the life of discipleship begins not with a choice but with a call. Jesus’ authority and his alone is the source of that call. It comes unexpectedly and without warning.
Most of the stories also make clear that the call is first and foremost a call to follow Jesus. The focal point is the person of Christ. The disciples follow after Jesus, surely not ahead of him, not even alongside him most of the time. Jesus is out in front of his community; the disciples follow behind, often in confusion and fear.
But there is something more in the content of the call. Jesus says, “I will make you fish for people.” The disciples who are called to follow Jesus will be plunged into the work of transforming the community, of establishing the realm of God, of healing and comforting and teaching just as Jesus did.
Most of all, the stories make clear that the disciples’ lives will never be the same. They will leave their boats and their families and new allegiances will be required.
The biblical call stories remind us that responding to God’s call requires conversion and lifelong personal transformation. It is not by accident that the most common biblical symbol for describing the life of faith is that of the journey.
The history of the people of God is cast as a long and often painful journey of faith: from the first stirrings of Abraham’s trek into the pastures of Canaan through the exodus from Egypt and the journey to the promised land; from the painful experience of exile to a muted and hope-filled return to the land of milk and honey. The life and mission of Jesus is also cast as a journey with its share of pain.
Response to God’s call is not instantaneous but something that unfolds over time and involves the rigors of life’s challenges, a journey that will at times involve fatigue and failure. But each of us receives a call. Our biblical heritage can help us understand that call and respond in faith.
Here’s the thing: having a vocation, at the most fundamental level, is not defined by any specific role or function in the church or society, but is something far greater, something written on a vast canvas. It is pure gift, with God as its author and life as its subject.
Fundamentally, our call, our vocation, is to seek the face of God; it is a call to holiness and the fullness of life itself. This is the endpoint of the biblical quest: to see the face of God and live. It is for this that we are called, all of us, as part of the human family and as people of God.
Let’s continue with a reflection that moves us forward.
If you go to church often enough, you're so used to hearing about how much God loves you that the words can sound a little threadbare. So let's focus on what it really means to be the beloved of God. God would do anything for you: If there's a crucifix handy, consider how this image underscores what God means by "anything." When love this immense comes into your life, you want to respond in a big way, as our baptism reminds us. Spend a few minutes today reflecting on how you're invited to share in God's "big love," and then choose how you will respond to that love with your life.
We’ll close our reflection with a scripture to reflect on, which comes from the First Letter to the Thessalonians: “May … the God of peace sanctify you through and through. …The one who calls you is faithful … and will bring it to pass.”
This concludes our Take Five Monthly Meditation on Call and Response. We hope you have found it of benefit and we welcome your comments and feedback. You can find us at TakeFiveforFaith.com or on Facebook. The music for this month’s podcast is by Lee Rosevere. The Take Five Monthly Meditation is produced by TrueQuest Communications. Thank you for joining us this month and have a blessed day!
Sound effects from Freesound.org, attribution license:
Plunge in water and swimming - YleArkisto https://freesound.org/people/YleArkisto/sounds/319378/
Lake - Benboncan https://freesound.org/people/Benboncan/sounds/67884/