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Bible Reflections View Comments

The Expectations of Our Calling
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, June 24, 2012
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My great-nephew was baptized on the feast of John the Baptist five years ago. I was one of the lectors and was blessed to be able to read that wonderful passage from Isaiah: “The Lord called me from birth. From my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” That Evan was being baptized on this feast and that his name is the Welsh form of John just added to the significance.

The homilist used the birth and naming of John the Baptist to talk about baptism and our calling as Christians. Evan’s mom sings in the parish choir and the parish music director commented wryly afterward, “That’s a lot of expectation to be putting
on a small baby.”

The Christian calling is a high expectation, and I was also struck by the fact that one of my own godchildren is now little Evan’s godmother, while my nephew and his wife are godparents to her oldest daughter. I could not help but be moved by the connections among us that are not only blood ties but also bonds in the Spirit.

But I have to admit that sitting behind the ambo during the Gospel, looking at family from out of town in the pews, the line “all these matters were discussed throughout the hill
country of Judea,” set me to thinking less about the wonders of God than about how often in families even the smallest detail, especially if it’s in someone else’s life, gets talked to death
by everyone else.

The commitment of Zechariah and Elizabeth to name their child John in the face of family and community tradition and expectation is sometimes a special source of encouragement to those who choose to live their lives and their faith in their own way. While we share one faith and one baptism, the cultural expressions of that faith can vary greatly.

One of the deepest rifts in Catholicism today lies in an ongoing struggle over the way the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, are celebrated. Too often these disagreements
focus on the accidents of language, music, and other cultural expressions and miss the essentials of preaching the gospel message and changing water and wine into the body and blood, soul and divinity, of Christ. And far too often we engage in heated arguments
that quickly lose sight of Jesus’s central command to love one another.

As John the Baptist grew to adulthood, his way of living and proclaiming his Jewish faith differed greatly from his father’s work as a priest in the Jerusalem temple. As Jesus began his ministry, he often upended the expectations of his cousin John, whose whole purpose was to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Whether in our own families or our family of faith, we need to remember that what matters more than anything else is hearing and doing the word and the will of God. John learned this from his parents. And their faith in God’s plan made it possible to let him go his own way, fulfilling his call from God in ways that they could only imagine.

We, too, need to let our children, our families, our friends find their own way to hear and do God’s will. We have support networks, we have the framework of tradition, we have our Scriptures and the teaching of the Church to guide us. But ultimately our calling will take us in a direction that only our God sees clearly.


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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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