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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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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p>
American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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