Called, chosen, and changed

Listen to mp3 file
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: July 15, 2012
Amos 7:12-15; Ps 85; Eph 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you want to be, and what do you want to be doing? Who do you want to be? What will count as success? And how will you reach that success—what strengths, skills, resources will you draw upon? What personal mission will you be accomplishing? Who will be pleased and proud of you? Who do you want to be in 10 years?

If you have worked through certain seminars or methods in priorities and time management, you may already have those questions precisely answered and right on the tip of your tongue. If not, you surely have some idea of the answers within you and could work them out with some thought and reflection. It’s pretty basic to being human to have a sense of identity and direction.

Almost 2800 years ago, perhaps around 760 B.C., Amos was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores in the southern kingdom of Judah, in Tekoa, south of Jerusalem. And surely he had ideas about what would happen in his business activities and in his family life. And then the Lord stepped in and set him on a different path. As we heard him attest in the first reading, “The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'” The Lord sent him to the northern kingdom of Israel with the mission of delivering a prophetic message to a not-so-receptive audience. That’s a long way from being a shepherd in Tekoa! Amos had been chosen; he had been called; he had been sent; and his plans had changed.

And about 2000 years ago, our Lord Jesus was walking the paths of the Holy Land, preaching and teaching, healing, performing miracles—and calling. We read of how he called Peter and Andrew, James and John, from their work as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee (Matt 4:18-22); and of how he called Matthew from his work at the customs post (Matt 9:9); and the other disciples as well (e.g., Philip in John 1:43). Each of them had their plans as well; but they got up, left their nets and boats, left their post, and followed him.

And today we hear of how he sent them out on a mission, with completely different goals and activities and locations and people and resources than they were used to. They were headed to people and places they didn’t know! And not only were they not bringing their fishing equipment: they were not even bringing food, a sack, money, or a second tunic. But instead they were bringing the authority Christ had given them; and instead of catching fish or collecting taxes, they were driving out demons and curing the sick, and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. The disciples had been chosen; they had been called; they had been sent; and their plans had changed.

And so have you and I. What is it that we hear from St. Paul, like a recurring rhythmic beat through this beautiful second reading? He chose us; he destined us; we were also chosen.

  • For the Father has known you—before you were born, before you were conceived. He chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world.
  • And in love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ—adoption as sons and daughters of God, accomplished in baptism, adoption into the divine Sonship of Christ. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions.

You—you personally—are no ordinary person. You have been chosen; you have been called; you have been given a new Father, a new family, a new name, a new identity.

And your plans have changed. As St. Paul continues, “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the [Father]… so that in all things we might exist for the praise of his glory.” The Catechism (897), quoting the Second Vatican Council, tells us that

the faithful, who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ and integrated into the People of God, are made sharers in their particular way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ, and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the World.

  • You have been made a sharer in the prophetic office of Christ: called to hear and believe his word, faithfully taught by the Church; and to proclaim him in the world by word and the testimony of your life. (904-05)
  • You have been made a sharer in the priestly office of Christ: called to receive his grace, especially through Holy Communion and confession; and to live out every aspect of your life as a holy, spiritual sacrifice to the Father; especially (for those called to marriage) as you live out Christian marriage and see to the Christian education of your children. (901-02)
  • You have been made a sharer in the kingly office of Christ: called to overcome sin within yourself, and to remedy the institutions and conditions of the world so as to turn them from sin to goodness. (908-09)

You have been called; you have been chosen; you have been sent; and your plans have changed. What does that mean for where you will be in 10 years; for what counts as success; for what resources you will use; for who you will be pleasing? And what does it mean for those of you who are children or young adults and have not yet discerned to which state of life you are called—to marriage and family, priesthood, or religious life?

It means that you seek to know his will—his mind, his heart, his word, his love. “Lord how do you want me to live for the praise of your glory?” And sometimes the answer will be to stay exactly where you are, doing exactly what you’re doing—but for his goals, by his resources. Or sometimes the answer will be to change—to take a different path than you ever expected. But whichever direction he might lead you, and even when (when!) you encounter resistance from the world, it will be for the praise of his glory.

As St. Paul wrote to the Romans (12:1-2):

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

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