Jesus said to the crowd, ‘No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
At different times in the year the Church’s calendar tells us that we are to mark Ember Days. Ember days are moments in the year when we pray for those who are responding to God’s call in their life. The Ember Days tend to gather around the principal moments when men and women are ordained into the diaconate or the priesthood, but that is not exclusively the case. Ember days are sprinkled throughout the year and they serve to remind us that God’s call is not seasonal and that it is not focused solely upon those who are called to ordained ministry.
Jesus says to the crowd: No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me. The ‘drawing’ of which Jesus is speaking is often expressed in terms of ‘calling’. God calls to each and every one of us. God calls us into his service. As with any call on our time and talents we are not obliged to respond. We may feel that the demands that are already being made upon us are as much as we can bear. The worldly concerns that crowd in upon us are so often used as an excuse for us to enter the realms of ‘selective deafness’ when God comes calling.
We all know how it works. At some totally unexpected moment we ‘hear God’s call’, we sense his presence and we just ‘know’ that he wants us to respond in faith and joy. But … then comes those very human thoughts: it can’t be true! Why would God be speaking to me? God can’t really expect me to believe that he wants me to serve him! Doesn’t God realize how busy I am already? Our human capacity for making excuses seems to know no bounds, and yet God carries on calling.
Many people find great consolation in their Christian faith, but they keep it as a one-sided relationship. Yes, Jesus wants us to believe in him and to follow him in faith, but that is not the end of the story. Jesus also wants us to recognize the magnitude of the call that is coming from his heavenly Father. As the human Jesus accepted and responded to God’s call, so are we called to do likewise.
Of course, accepting the reality of God’s call is a big deal. It can be very inconvenient and it will always be scary. But, Jesus wants us to know that we are not left to make the journey into faithful discipleship alone and without sustenance. Jesus reminds us that he is the bread of life and that if we partake fully of that bread we will live for ever, that is, we will come to be one with Jesus in God’s glorious kingdom.
Let us pray that we might both hear and follow God’s call in our lives, bringing the joy and the light of Christ into the lives of others so that, in our time, we might rejoice in the fellowship of the risen faithful for ever.