“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1
I have been called by name for 40 years of priesthood, and He calls all of us. I have learned Jesus doesn’t simply call your name but calls you to himself in a relationship of love. God not only knows where you are, but He also knows who you are. God knows what you’re going through, why you’re going through it, and how you feel about it. He knows you better than you know yourself. The Lord cares about you, personally.
You may be afraid to get close to Jesus because you think he’s going to scold you for all the things you’ve done wrong. But Jesus doesn’t do that. He says to you, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” (Isaiah 43:1).
He calls you by name to have a relationship with you that lasts forever. “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16 ). How does it make you feel to know that God affirms you and could never forget you? What can keep you from getting close to Jesus? “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). That is the exact invitation Jesus gives you.
A priest is persona Christi, he acts in the person of Christ. I have called people by name, just like Jesus. I have called the baptized by name. Your name now is beloved daughter or son of the Lord. To those who received Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, I say you are now part of the body of Christ. To those in the confessional, your name is forgiven. To the confirmed, your name is Holy Spirit filled. To the married, your names are bride and groom in Christ. To those passing from this life, your name is resurrection. You see, Jesus doesn’t just call us by name; he calls us to himself, and you are never the same. We are changed in Jesus.
This has been my priesthood: He calls, and I run to Him. He changes my fear to faith, my despair to hope. He calls me even in my sin and failure and says I have come not for the righteous but the sinner. Yet he calls me again and again to himself, and I am changed.
Let me tell you two stories about the Lord calling me by name. I graduated with a design degree and was surveying in the Palmer Valley. I had not been very faithful to God in college. Yet one morning, I looked at the Butte and heard His call in my inner voice: “Time to go to the seminary.” What? I was a long-haired hippie; I was not the pure one. So I went to the vocation director and said I wanted to enter the seminary this fall. He asked, “Okay, when was the last time you went to Mass?” I said it had been a while, and confession even longer. The vocation director looked at me, startled. “Don’t you think you should receive these sacraments if you wanted to be a priest?” he asked.
So I went to confession on Saturday and Mass on Sunday and was back in his office Monday. You see, God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. I was not the pure one, but Jesus has not come for the pure ones, he comes for sick to make them well.
The second story happens a bit further down the road. I went to seminary. I received my master’s in Theology and decided to take two years off. I was disillusioned a little by the Church. Has this ever happen to you? I worked in a L’Arche home, where I lived with handicap people. In our daily experience, we bring our weaknesses and strengths together; when we recognize we need each other, these can contribute to building a more human society. All are handicapped, some just more obvious, we say in L’Arche.
I was transformed and found the call to the priesthood again in these men and women who were less handicapped than me. We measure our worth by our IQ, but these children of God have a larger HQ (heart quotient ) that puts us to shame.
So off I went back to Anchorage hitchhiking on the Alaska Ferry system. Honestly, I didn’t pay a dime. I ended up in Sitka in the laundry room of a convent. Jesus again called me by name. I woke to go pray in the church. Like Samuel, I said, is it I, Lord. “Yes, get up and go pray.” So I went to the church. It was dark, and the only light was around the tabernacle.
I began the longest and deepest litany of the failings of the Church, the hypocrisy of the bishops and priests. I went on for an hour, feeling quite proud of myself. And the Lord said to me, “and you.” I became naked in my ego, and all the pharisaical lies came forth. He, at that point, showed me my heart. How dark and confused I was, how angry and judgmental I was. I began for the first time, and not the last, to weep over my sins. After a good hour, I was drained of everything, so I became bold and said “God you tell me right now am I to be a priest.” I heard a slight noise behind me. “Just no angels Lord,” I thought, I couldn’t handle that. I turned, and there was a small woman there. I invited her into the convent, and at five in the morning, I cooked her breakfast. But what was astounding was she did not speak. She just gave me scripture verses to read, and each verse answered my heart’s complaint. I was convicted that night one hundred times. My angel turned out to be a struggling local woman, but Jesus called me to Himself through her, and I was changed.
This year, I celebrate 40 years of being called His priest and your priest. Please pray for me like Paul to the Thessalonians. “We always pray for you that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.” Please pray for me, a poor sinner. You see, Jesus doesn’t just call us by name. He calls us to himself, and you are never the same. We are changed in Jesus forever. Amen