Answering the Call

Answering the Call

Third Sunday of the Year. Fr Duncan Campbell urges us all to respond freely to God’s call, regardless of the risk.

The Gospel was written to help explain how there began a ‘Christ’ movement — what has come to be the Church. It began with the son of a village odd-job man, or carpenter, walking past hard-working fishermen, calling on them to follow him.

He would have been known to them. They may have heard rumours of his visit to the wonderful preacher John, and having some sort of second-birth experience in a public washing-ceremony (‘baptism’) that John performed. This may explain, partly, why they answered his call.

In doing so, they transformed our whole world.

What would it have been like to follow him? It could look foolish. It could even be dangerous. It must have been tough — sleeping rough, for instance. On one occasion, one man who volunteered was warned that ‘foxes have holes and birds nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’. On another occasion they were so hungry that they tried to get a meal ‘plucking ears of corn’. An eager, rich young man just couldn’t face it.

But it was urgent. Others were warned, to come at once — not to delay for farewells; in another, shocking, account, not even to do the most solemn duty of all — bury a parent. Presumably they had to leave behind all thoughts of marriage or family life.

So much so, that many, even his family, were convinced he had gone mad.

And all heard of his crucifixion; and later, there were even more disturbing accounts of him.

What do we think of this call?

The world’s writers and poets have understood, and echoed it. Wordsworth said

The world is too much with us?getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.

In Matthew Arnold’s poem ‘The Scholar Gipsy’, a man who left college life to live with gipsies is addressed in a memorable line

Thou hadst – one aim, one business, one desire.

The feeling way in which my English Master read out those words helped me decide to try to follow this same call and become a Religious Priest. To spend my life trying to spread knowledge and love of God; to celebrate God’s Life-with-us, in daily worship; and to make God’s (real) World really come about, in our time and space, in singing ‘psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles’, with readings about God, prayers to God, in the Prayer of the Church, so that every day is echoing with God.

But what about those who don’t follow this way? What can it mean in your lives? Quite a lot, I have to suggest. We are not meant to gaze and admire the apostles and saints, but to try to follow them.

Think very hard about this, and the call and direction needed in your lives, at work and at home. Think over your life at work. Eric Gill remarked

They’re slaves, who do what they like to do only in their spare time, and in working time what they are required to do. This happens when what they want is only to please themselves.
They’re free, who do in their working time what they want to do, and only in their spare time what is required of them. This happens, when what they want is to please God.

Can you then ‘see’ your work a real form of service, or creation, or inspiration –something for God? If so, sweeping the streets, stacking shelves, driving a bus, are all to the good, done this way — no matter what many think.

Your home life, too, should have prayer. You also might try our Religious Community practice of ‘Chapter’ where everyone sits round and discusses frankly the work needing doing around the house; and, carefully, any faults that need correcting in family members.

It will be hard and dangerous. But as a modern philosopher, Wittgenstein, summed it up: ‘We obviously aren’t here just to have a good time’. We are here to answer the same wonderful call from God, in the many different and wonderful ways we can find.

Readings: Jonah 3:1-5,10 | 1 Cor 7:29-31 | Mark 1:14-20

fr Duncan Campbell is a member of St Albert's Priory, Edinburgh, and is currently resident at St Mary's home, Stone.