In the Bible when there is a name change, such as Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah or Saul to Paul, it often signals a significant change in the person and their relationship to God. It can also signal that their lives are about to change, that they are about to swerve from the road they are traveling down onto a new path…one specifically chosen for them by God. Peter’s name change is no less significant, he is about to become “the chief” of this, as of yet unformed, band of followers of Jesus. In Jesus’ act of changing Simon’s name he is calling him to come and follow him. If he accepts the name change, then he accepts the invitation to follow Jesus. I often think that it was so much easier for the disciples to hear the call and to follow since Jesus was right there, physically present to them. They could audibly hear his preaching, they could see, and read, his facial expressions and his hand and body gestures…but for those of us who come later to this band of followers…well it’s a little harder for us to know exactly what the call is and where it is leading us.
Sometimes the call is clear and well articulated, but sometimes it is not so clear or well-articulated. Sometimes it seems muffled and downright confusing. So we have to pay close attention and listen carefully…especially as there is so much competition for our attention. There are so many other voices that seem to all speak at the same time -- we can be like Samuel, a bit confused and not sure at first…but if we stay engaged and “make time” to listen for that small still voice of the Holy Spirit that dwells with in each one of us…then, perhaps, we will hear the invitation to “come and follow” and we will find the path we are being called to travel. In the end the invitation is clear, but the many “voices” of our lives and the world around us distract us and gain all of our attention and so we can find ourselves confused and unsure of the path to follow. But by refocusing our attention and making time to listen we can, like Samuel and Simon, “come and follow”.
The Gospel message is surely “the call”. It records Jesus’ words and actions, what he called his disciples to do, how to live, how to love one another and to welcome and love the one who was “other” and the one who was “the stranger”, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, to reach out to the poor and the marginalized. The Gospels are the “lens” through which we are called to view the world around us and through which we can judge and decide upon what action we are called to take. The Gospel is the Word of God and it seeks to speak to us, to call us to the path that we, as disciples, are called to follow.
With all the violence and chaos that has erupted in our nation, and around the world, and here at home that threatens to get worse in the coming days we need to hold strong to the Word of God that has been spoken to us through the Gospels and to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us to respond to it. Let us remember “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Jn 1:5) In the midst of the pandemic and all of the political turmoil there is so much darkness, but The Light shines, and it shines within you and me, it shines within all of us as the community of The Light! Let us listen to the call of the Holy Spirit and let us use the Gospels as our guide for our response to the chaos swirling around us and let us not give up hope for a brighter day! Let our light shine by standing up against and working to root out the sins of systemic racism, white supremacy and nationalism! Let us live up the to clarion call of the Gospels to love God with our whole being and our neighbor as ourselves, fighting the great lie that one group of people is worth more or better than another! And let us pray for and work towards a more peaceful and just nation!
What are the competing voices of my life that make it difficult for me to really listen for God’s call to me? How can I best stand up to and fight against systemic racism, white supremacy and nationalism?