It has been more than a year since I have posted.
This past Wednesday I had the privilege of preaching to my own community: The Brotherhood of Saint Gregory.
I preached on the following text
1 Sam. 3:1-20
Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.
In the name of The Father....
Many of you know, I made a big deal out of turning age fifty this past year.
I joined AARP.
Got the colonoscopy.
For the first time in my life I had wax removed from my ears - and had my hearing tested.
In spite of the wax removal - I am getting to be the age where I periodically experience that awkward moment when you can’t understand what someone’s said even after they’ve repeated it four times
So, I’m all like
Praying to God that it wasn’t a question.
Samuel, in today’s scripture, and I are the same in that we knew that we heard something; but, we’re not sure what we heard.
Samuel’s time was after the period of The Judges. Samuel’s time was nearly a millennium before the time of Christ. Samuel is the person God chooses to anoint Saul as Israel’s first king.
This favorite bible-story of the boy Samuel is framed by the comment - “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread” In other words - the people of Israel were not hearing what God was saying to them - until - somehow God, with the help of Eli, get’s Samuel’s attention.
Initially it is not Samuel, but Eli who perceives God is calling. Eli instructs Samuel what to say.
‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
The Lord has a message - however ominous.
Hugh Laurie in his role as Dr. House in the second season of the television series “House” noted...
If you talk to God, you’re religious; if God talks to you, you’re psychotic.
So here we are with a story about listening, listening particularly to God.
What does this mean for me? What does this mean for you?
I think it is safe to say, that to some degree every one of us here has perceived a call to something greater. To something different. Yes, likely we’ve perceived somehow a call from God. That call has landed us here in this religious community.
It has been over a decade since I was interviewed by council to consider my postulancy to the The Brotherhood of Saint Gregory. One question that was asked of me - “How is that we will know that you are called to the religious life?” I thought to myself, “How the hell do I know?” I did say, “Y’know, I don’t hear voices from God.”
While that question bothered me then - I cherish it now. How is that I know that I am called to religious life? The answer is: Discernment. With the help of this community; through formation and mentorship; through making mistakes and being transformed - I learned the particular vocabulary of discernment. With experience, I’ve learned that discernment is an ongoing journey and not a particular destination. I learned I need experience and perspective to know indeed that not only have I been called to religious life - but to life profession.
James Martin, SJ in his book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything - writes of the connection between Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises and discernment for us today. The sixteenth century Saint Ignatius was rather sober and practical - not particularly romantic.
Ignatius in his spiritual exercises makes use of prayer, imagination, and experience. Ignatius made mistakes in his own spiritual endeavors and allowed for “do-overs” or trying to re-evaluate God’s call with new data.
Ignatius himself - noted if you try something and feel peace, it’s likely God’s presence or consolation. If you try something and you feel disquiet and agitation - you are on a path of desolation.
Contemporary Jesuits note that discernment - through experience is “recognizing the action in human-consciousness of the Holy Spirit” - In other words - knowing God’s will or hearing God’s call.
As the months and years pass there are times for each of us when the call is loud and clear, there are times when the call seems distant and faint. Either way, in hearing and answering the call, we are discerning what we are called to by God.
Each of us; with God’s help; over and over; finds our calling. Some of us are called to heal as Jesus does in today’s unvarnished Gospel of Mark. Some of us will pray, some of us will preach The Good News - all of which are aspects of Jesus’ life noted in today’s Gospel - where we can find peace.
In the 1979 Book of Common Prayer - the gerund “discerning” makes only one appearance; this happens in the prayer immediately following a baptism. This prayer is my prayer for each one of us today.
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.