God Calls Us
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. - John 10: 14-15
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." - John 10:27
One day, when I was about four, I went with my mom to the local palengke. I guess I wandered away from her and I found myself lost in a sea of people. Soon, I was in a panic because I couldn’t find her. All I could remember was how terrified I was. I frantically searched for my mom. People around me saw me crying and they tried to console me, while at the same time, they were on a lookout for an equally distressed woman or mother looking for her son. Alas, I heard a voice call my name. I knew whose voice it was. Before I could see her face, before I could ran up as fast as I could to embrace and give her a kiss, I knew whose voice it was that was calling my name. I knew that that voice couldn’t be anyone else in the world except my mother, the voice of the one who I loved deeply, the voice of the one who also loved me, the voice of the one who was my protector, and my nurturer
Today’s Gospel speaks of the Shepherd who calls his sheep by name and the sheep hears his voice: oves vocem eius audiunt. And not only do the sheep hear his voice, they follow him because they know his voice: oves illum sequuntur, quiasciunt vocem eius. Each one of us has heard the voice of God that calls us by name. Today, I want to offer a brief reflection on this theme of God’s call. Each one of us is here on this earth because God called us into life. Each one of us has come to Christ because he has called us to him. We are in this community we call Church because the Shepherd has called us by name to be in this flock, a fellowship, and he calls his flock, community, all of us, to a definite mission and service.
The Bible opens with the story of creation of the world. We hear God calling all of creation, the universe, out of nothingness, calling all that he created into being. God calls each one of us out of non-existence into existence. God calls us out of nothingness into life. You have heard me before say that each one of us here exists by some chance or freak of nature. Rather, God calls us to exist, God calls us to life. Why? I believe I have quoted here before what the theologian Karl Rahner once said, that each one of you, each one of us is “an unrepeated term of God’s creative love.” What he meant is that we have been called out of nothingness into life for the purpose of being loved by him, and to love him. And more, we have been crowned with the highest dignity of being created in God’s image. This image of God is none other than his Son, Jesus Christ, both man and divine. Since Jesus, the image of God, is both human and divine, we who are human are destined to be cloth with his divinity. In the end, we shall be like Jesus, we shall be like God. We have been called out from nothingness into existence so we could participate in the divine life of God. This is our identity as children of God.
We have been called to life, then, to live in community with God. But we are also called to live in community and harmony with all of creation, and with one another. In the book of Genesis, God made the trees and animals to be Adam’s companions. And immediately after the creation of Adam, Eve was created. Adam was not to live alone. He was to live in community with Eve and all creatures. We are not made for a lonely existence; we are made for community. Ain the Bible, we read of God calling into existence two communities. The first is the calling forth of the entire community of Israel to be his chosen people. And the other community is his Church. Both communities are branches of the same vine or tree that is rooted in God. God calls into existence a community for his people, and I can think of three reasons.
First, it is here in this community that we would know God’s gift of love through one another. I experience the love of God concretely through you; and hopefully you experience the love of God tangibly through me. With all the differences that sometimes lead to deep divisions among us, it is sometimes difficult to feel or sense that love. But there it is, community is God’s gift to us where we would find love.
Secondly, it is through the community we call Church that we achieve what we call sanctification or holiness of life, not through our own efforts but by grace. Our redemption is made real for us personally through this community. It is through our community that we come to know God intimately. We can only follow our Shepherd if we know him and hear his voice. In here we here not only his loving voice, but also a terrifying voice that judges us, and calls us into repentance; the Shepherd’s voice that calls us to the fold when we stray, a voice that utters forgiveness, and a gentle voice that blesses. And yes, while we may hear his voice outside this community, nevertheless, Jesus promises us that we would know him and hear his voice primarily in this often times sinful and divided community we call Church. Here, we hear him in our prayers by which God speaks to us in the depths of our being. We hear his voice in the proclamation of the Word of God. And we hear his voice through one another, for each one of us is also a Sacrament of God. God not speaks in community but God also speaks through his community. And it is through the community of God we call the Church that we would experience the Shepherd’s love, mercy and forgiveness. Here we find the Shepherd who nurtures and nourishes us. Here the Shepherd cleanses our lives by the waters of baptism and through the sacramental of reconciliation. And around this Table, the Shepherd feeds his flock with his own Body and Blood, the food and drink of our immortality and divinity.
Thirdly, God calls us into his community for a definite purpose and mission. In the baptism, as we become part of Christ’s community, we are also called to proclaim God’s love to those who do not know the reality of God’s love. As individuals and as a community, we are also called to do justice, to make peace, to reconcile, to forgive, to bless, to help, to love, to give hope especially to the least of God’s people- the poor, the needy, the sick, the marginalized. We exist for the purpose of sanctifying and blessing life itself. It is through you, as individuals, it is through you and me as a community that the world perhaps could see a glimpse of the Good Shepherd, it is through this community of ours that others come to hear the loving voice of this Good Shepherd who calls his sheep back into his arms of love and mercy.
© 2023 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a queer Episcopal priest in the Philippines. He runs Nazareth House, a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality for persons with HIV/AIDS in Manila.
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