The first time I heard God calling me I was seven years old. I spent countless hours crawling around my parish altar when my mom arranged flowers and watered plants as a volunteer. Playing at the foot of the wooden cross affixed to the back of the altar, I heard a voice say to me, “thank you”. I went to the back sacristy and asked my mom if she had spoken to me. She had not.
The second time I heard God calling me I was a sophomore in college. I was at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. With my eyes closed during the prayer service, I suddenly heard a voice from deep in my heart asking me, “are you willing to lay down your life for the world you seek?” I opened my eyes and looked around me. I knew in my heart of hearts that the voice came from within me. At that time, I was self-righteous and judgemental all for the sake of so-called “justice”. It was easier for me to shame others for eating a Hershey bar than it was to engage in a loving conversation.
How at odds were my actions and my hopes for justice! So my honest response to God in that ballroom was “no”. I was awakening to injustices of the world and responded with righteous anger. But I didn’t want to face the internal work I would have to do if I were to surrender myself for the world I sought.
In this Sunday’s first reading, we hear the story of Samuel’s call. He hears a voice calling to him in the night and mistakenly thinks it’s his mentor, Eli. After several instances, Eli realizes that God is calling Samuel and instructs Samuel to engage with availability. Samuel does so by responding “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
When have we heard God calling and mistaken it for someone or something else? When have we responded to God’s call in ways that were unloving, all in the name of righteousness? How might we now listen with an attitude of service?
Teresa Marie Cariño Petersen is an educator and activist particularly interested in racial justice and embodiment. She currently works as a campus ministry teacher at Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton where she teaches social ethics and coordinates the immersion program. She credits her faith that does justice formation to ISN and is an alum of St. Ignatius (San Francisco), the University of San Francisco, and (soon to be) Jesuit School of Theology. She also served as a Jesuit Volunteer in New York City 13’-14’ and worked at two Jesuit parishes. Teresa also serves on the board of the National Catholic Reporter.
Find her on Instagram @teresamariecarino