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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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