In Jeremiah l:4-10, l7-19, the prophet describes the call he received from the Lord in these words: "The word of the Lord came to me thus: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. "Ah, Lord God!" I said, "I know not how to speak; I am too young." But the Lord answered me, Say not, "I am too young." To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms... but do you gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you. They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."

Like Jeremiah, everyone receives a call from the Lord, who sends us on a unique mission which he gives to no other person. The call of the Lord is my focus this week.

Each of us has daily routines and responsibilities. But looking at our life as a whole, we have deeper dreams for ourselves, greater hopes for the world, and a higher calling from God. Our life is greater than the sum total of our daily tasks, and we are more than the sum total of what others think of us or see in us.

To put this in other terms once again, each of us has a mission received from God. We are to fulfill some purpose which God alone fully understands.

How can we know what God is calling us to do? What do we need to do to follow God's will? The first step is simply to respond to the call of Jesus Christ, "Follow me", and become disciples of him. And how do we do that?

Lutheran theologian Deitrich Bonhoeffer asked this question and answered it as follows: "What is the content of discipleship?  Follow me, run along behind me! That is all. To follow in his steps is something which is void of all content. It gives us no intelligible programmer for a way of life, no goal or ideal to strive after. It is not a cause which human calculation might deem worthy of our devotion. What happens? At the call, the disciple leaves all. Otherwise he cannot follow in the steps of Jesus.

“When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to his person. If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps,” says Deitrich Bonhoeffer. “The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow immediately produces a new situation. To stay in the old situation makes discipleship impossible.”

Through the call of Jesus people are compelled to decide, and that decision can only be made by themselves. Everyone is called separately, and must follow alone.

But the problem, says Bonhoeffer, is that people are afraid of solitude, and they try to protect themselves from it by merging themselves in society and in their material environment. But all this is only a cloak to protect them from having to make a decision. They are unwilling to stand alone before Jesus and to be compelled to decide with their eyes fixed on him alone. Yet neither father nor mother, neither wife nor child, neither nationality nor tradition, can protect a person at the moment of his or her call. It is Christ's will that his disciple should be thus isolated, and that the disciple should fix his or her eyes solely on him.

“At every moment of their call, people find that they have already broken with all the natural ties of life. For Christ has delivered them from the world, and brought them into intimacy with himself,”  so spoke Deitrich Bonhoeffer.

The response to Christ's call need not lead us to uproot ourselves from our external environment, nor to sever our relations with our family and friends, and daily routines. The essence of the change is interior. It is sometimes quite dramatic and obvious to others, and at times very quiet and hidden from view. But when we respond, we undergo a change, and begin to lead a new life. We have entered on a new path.

How is God calling us? To what are we being called? How are we to respond? I'll take up those questions in my next column.

Printed with permission from the Diocese of Brownsville.