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Father Muench Says...

We are each called by name

April 22, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

During the time of pandemic and social distancing, the Gospel stories of Our Lord’s Resurrection are powerful sources of hope and confidence. Our God brings us new life even at times of difficulty. The Gospel stories of the Lord’s Resurrection are important. Like many Scriptures, they are all about us.

Last week in this column, I suggested that we consider one of those Resurrection stories, the Emmaus story. In that story, Jesus comes along and walks with a couple – two of Jesus’ disciples who are walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day of Christ’s Resurrection. Jesus catches up with them, walks with them and teaches them. I am certain that Jesus often catches up with us and spends time with us. I thank Our Lord, Jesus for this, for being my companion on the road, walking with me.

Today, as I write this, the Gospel reading of the Lord’s Resurrection is the one about Mary Magdalene, who is standing before the empty tomb of Jesus. Jesus comes along, but Mary does not recognize that it is Jesus. She believes Him to be the gardener. Mary asks, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” At that moment, Jesus says to her, “Mary.” Immediately, Mary know that this is Jesus, the Resurrected Jesus. She shouts out, “Rabboni.”

As I consider this story, I know and believe that the Lord has called me by name many times. I still remember – rather vaguely as a child – learning what my name was to be. My parents certainly called me by name often, “Bill.” Although I must admit, especially if I misbehaved, I was called “William G.”

When I decided to enter the seminary to prepare for priesthood, I noticed that at the various stages as I progressed toward priesthood, there were rituals. Each began with being called by name. I believe that this was like the Lord was calling me. In the Ordination Mass, each candidate is called forward into the sanctuary by name. For me, that was years ago in the Latin days. When our name was called, we were to respond “ego adsum,” “I am here.”

My ordination to priesthood was a special day for me. I remember every detail of that day, even after all these years. During the years of seminary, I had heard many talks and sermons that spoke of vocation – the call to priesthood. In meditation, I had come to believe that I had a vocation – a religious vocation – and that God was truly calling me to become a priest. Actually, I began to look for indications that I was being called. So, when my name was announced on the day of my ordination, I thought of it as a call from the Lord.

So, I believe that the Lord has called me by name many times over the years. How exactly? I don’t suppose I really know for certain. However, I am absolutely certain that there have been times I have had experiences when, as I look back over them, I am certain it was the Lord speaking my name, announcing to me His presence. Jesus was calling out to me. In a sense, Jesus had spoken my name, leading and guiding me, calling me to another challenge and showing me the way to bring his love and care to others.

In the celebration of baptism, the priest is instructed to begin the ceremony by asking the parents, “What name do you give your child?” During the ceremony, the child is spoken to by his or her name. We begin our lives as disciples and followers of Jesus by being called by our name.

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