We have been reminded by Council Vatican II of Jesus’ call to every Christian for holiness. Everybody is called to become a saint (see chapter 5 in Lumen Gentium and the Catechism n°2013). Although we are all called, there is a fine line between acknowledging the existence of that call, and taking for granted that we are all “naturally”/automatically called by God to holiness. There is a fine line between saying: “you are baptised, therefore you are called to holiness” and saying: “one day you’ll hear in a clearer way Jesus knocking at the door of your heart, wanting to speak to you, showing you his love and calling you to follow him more closely”. The difference between both cases is huge.
Matthew’s Calling, Caravaggio
God is God
One takes for granted that it is almost like a “right” to be called to holiness, a right obtained in Baptism, and that therefore it becomes a “duty” for all Christians to work on it (we say: “to tend to it”). But in fact on one hand God is God, he is a real being, and not a machine that produces saints, he has his own views, his own “feelings”, plans, wisdom, timing, initiative and on the other hand, we are not always ready to hear God’s call.
The infinite enters into the finite
A call in this case is the entrance of God, of Jesus, in our time, in our space, aiming at me, and only at me, as if I meant the entire world to him, and he wants to talk to me, to engage with me. A call is personal. You don’t call a crowd to holiness, you call persons, individually, in a unique non-repeatable way.
Detail: Jesus calling
He has the initiative
Furthermore, God has the initiative, not us. Nobody can go to God through his own will, initiative, desire. God calls us. We want him? Well he wants us a million more times… let us try to hear his subtle voice in our heart. “Wisdom shouts loudly in the streets” (Proverbs 1:20) say the Holy Scriptures. Jesus is the Wisdom of the Father. Do you hear him shouting loudly in the streets?
Everything starts with this sight of love that Jesus gives to each one of us, in a unique way. “And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing […], follow me’.” (Mark 10:21) Nobody can replace Jesus’ look. No doctrine, no morality, no rites or liturgies can replace that absolute initiative. It is indeed totally and radically his initiative.
We can facilitate that connection between Jesus and each human being, we can help people hear that subtle voice, in their heart, we can tell them that it is the case so they can become more attentive to him. We can teach ways to hear Jesus’ voice. But nobody can replace Jesus’ presence and Jesus’ initiative. No plan on earth can do that. If the person that hears you telling them that Jesus has the initiative and they don’t turn inwardly, into their heart, and they don’t discern that subtle gentle breeze of Jesus’ Call, well then all our projects are just human initiatives. Christianity is Christianity! It is not a man-made religion, or a man-made worship.
Can we plan God’s call?
We can and have to facilitate Jesus’ Call, of course, this is our duty as the witnesses of His Love, of the encounter with him. But “witnessing” is not “us calling”. Here is what John the Baptist says about that point: “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. […] I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full.” (John 3:27-29)
In order to conclude this short development on Jesus’ Call let us listen to him: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:44-45)
As witnesses and as leaders, we plan, we plan, but let us remember always our exact place: by the grace of God we facilitate the encounter; but God’s Grace is Sovereign: “it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16)