Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Vocation - its personal

A sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity - preached at Mass in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Amos goes to preach at the national Temple – or put it another way, if it were England – he goes to preach at Westminster Abbey. He does so though he has no title, nor does he have the priests' permission and he begins to denounce the false order which allows the accumulation of so much private wealth. So naturally Amaziah, who is the king's chaplain, is scandalised.

For Amaziah, his priesthood is a well-paid position, and he is convinced that Amos is preaching against his way of earning a living. In those days there were many prophets who made a living from giving advice without having been called directly from God – as the great prophets had been.

At the time of Amos the 'prophet' in Israel had been institutionalised and was less about being driven by an inner vocation, a call from God, and more about making the institution of the nation work smoothly.

Amos is not one of those sorts of prophets. He is if you like a lay man. A lay man to whom God had entrusted a mission – God had personally called Amos. The only defence that Amos has against Amaziah and the authorities is essentially that God had called him from his herds and sycamore figs and commanded him to proclaim God's word.

The example of Amos provides us with several warnings, not least, about trying to institutionalise what is essentially God's business. God will call whom He wishes to call and send them on His mission. We are reminded today that we cannot organise God.

In St Paul's beautiful and powerful opening verses of Ephesians, Paul reminds all Christians of their calling in Christ: “even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”. Each and every Christian is called by God. It is not just clergy. It is not just Religious, monks and nuns. Each and every Christian has been called and answered God's call. For our faith in God is our reply and response to that call – each time we say “I believe in God” we are saying in effect “Yes Lord your servant is listening. I believe in You, and I am therefore ready to do whatever you ask...”

In the gospel Jesus sends out the Twelve on a particular mission. Their mission (fairly modest!) was to go out in their poverty and proclaim the Kingdom of God with the authority Christ gave them. They called people to repentance and people repented. They cast out demons, and anointing the sick with oil, the sick were healed. The Twelve we called for particular mission by Christ, they responded with faith: “I believe...” and thus they were able to do what they needed to do.

God calls humankind – better – God calls every single human being. Some have not heard that call. Some have heard but not responded. But each and every single person is called by God personally. As we consider vocation, that is, that of being called – we need to remember that even what we might call the general vocation of every Christian, that St Paul talks about, that God calls us individually and personally. He calls you for who you are, and for who you will become in Christ. And one of the reasons we are given Confirmation, after our Baptism, is that we need the special gift of the Holy Spirit to mould us and shape us into the person God wishes us to be. The gift is sevenfold but those seven dimensions are shaped and moulded according to the individual person.

God called Amos, a herdsman and tender of fig trees, unlikely though it seemed, to challenge the wealthy institutions of Israel. God called Paul, from enemy of Christ, to be His apostle to the Gentiles. God called the Twelve to go out with His authority, and miracles happened. God has called each and every one of us, and has give us the Holy Spirit to make us into the people God knows we will become. Let us grow in confidence of that gift. God is working His purposes out, yes even in us! Of course He knows what He is doing. All we must do is say, “I believe in You”, and then live accordingly.

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)