Earlier this year, I went with Fr. Kiley to an organ concert at a small church in Ipswich. The organist was David Briggs, who is a world-renowned musician. One of his specialties is improvisation, and this concert included a fairly long three-part improvisation on the melody of Ave Maris Stella and the theme music of Spongebob Squarepants. Somewhere in the middle, while Briggs was playing an adagio, someone’s cell phone started to ring. It was the usual situation where at first no one was sure whose phone it was, then we could hear someone rummaging around in her purse trying to find the phone. The ring got louder as the owner pulled out the phone, and finally shut it off. All the while, Briggs kept on playing, but when the ringer finally turned off, he started to imitate the sound of the phone with the organ, and integrated it as a minor element into the music he was improvising! It was funny and impressive at the same time.
In life, there are some calls that we just don’t need to take, and some that we can work in to the flow of our day without causing much disturbance, like David Briggs worked the cell phone ring into his music. Today’s readings speak to us of a call that can’t be reduced to a flourish in the music of our lives; when God calls, it has to become the main theme of our existence.
In today’s reading from the letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul explains that God chose and called all of us to receive the gift of salvation, to be redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice and to “exist for the praise of His glory”. That’s a powerful statement. We are called to praise the glory of God by our very existence as His redeemed and adopted children, by being “holy and without blemish before Him.” That is not the kind of call we can ignore. Even though striving to live a holy and blameless life is a daily challenge, it is not an intrusion or an interruption of our real lives. On the contrary, anything that separates us from love of God and neighbor is an intrusion and an interruption of the true reason for our existence.
While we are all called to be holy and live the Gospel, some people are called in a special way to dedicate their lives to serving God and others, as special agents of God’s plan for our salvation. We see an example in the first reading: the prophet Amos. He recounts how God called him to leave his life as a shepherd to become a prophet. In the Gospel, we hear how Jesus sends out the Twelve Apostles to preach and work miracles, spreading the Gospel and laying the foundations of the Church. He had called them from different walks of life to become full-time “fishers of men”.
God is still calling people to similar roles today, in the priesthood and consecrated life as monks, nuns, and so forth, but it seems not enough people are hearing or answering that call. There are many reasons behind this problem, but they are too many to address at this point in a homily. An important part of the answer to the problem, though, is prayer. Let us all pray each day that all those whom God is calling to serve Him full-time, will hear that call, and respond generously, with the support of their families and the Catholic community. Let us also pray that each one of us will do our best to live God’s call wherever it leads us, as laity or clergy, parents or professionals. If we think of our lives as an organ concert where we are the musicians, the best thing we can do is listen to God’s call and let Him create the melody through us. We can be certain that God’s plan will make more beautiful music with our lives than anything we ourselves could ever compose or imagine.