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“The Lord took me…”: A deep and abiding Biblical theme

On the Readings for Sunday, July 11, 2021


• Am 7:12-15
• Psa 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
• Eph 1:3-14
• Mk 6:7-13

“The shepherd’s career is one of solitude,” stated Monsignor Ronald Knox in one of his homilies, further noting that such solitude “is the seed-ground of revelation; the call came to Moses like that, came to Amos, ‘I was but tending sheep when the Lord took me into his service’…”

Little is known about Amos; today’s reading from his book is the only biographical information he put to paper (Amos 7:10-17). It reveals he was indeed a herdsman, breeding and raising sheep and, likely, cattle. He did not possess any apparent education, talent, or status setting him apart as an obvious spokesman for God. In fact, when Amos was being chased out of the northern kingdom around the year 750 B.C. by the high priest, Amaziah, he said, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to the company of prophets…” But something happened: “The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophecy to my people Israel.”

“The Lord took me…” Those are four words to ponder, for they express a deep and abiding theme in Scripture. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Ephesus, situates this divine calling within a cosmic, panoramic vision of salvation history. Disciples of Christ, he wrote, are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world…” The initiative of God and the passivity of man are even further emphasized in Paul’s declaration, “In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…”

This mystery of predestination has led to many tomes, numerous debates, and countless headaches, in part because it is caught up in the mystery of God and his perfect knowledge. St. Augustine, however, made an essential point in explaining that those predestined to be children of God are so not because they are “holy and immaculate”, but because God chose and predestined them so they might become so. He also issued this stern warning: “So long as this mortal life endures, no one of the faithful may presume that he belongs to the number of the predestined.” True faith clings to God, while presumption clings to faith in oneself, a sure recipe for ruin.

In addition to election and adoption, Paul wrote of redemption and revelation. The redemption is by Christ’s blood, through which our sins are forgiven; the revelation is the mystery of God’s will, made known to us through his favor, or grace. Again, each of these four wondrous actions is initiated and performed by God. So, what is our part? What are we to do?

The simple answer is: “Do as God commands.” Amos was told to go and prophesy, and so he did. Paul’s calling was equally direct, if more dramatic, as he was blinded by Christ on the road to Damascus. Those who answer the call, Paul taught, “exist for the praise of [God’s] glory…” Soli Deo Gloria; to God alone be glory!

The astounding fact is that we are invited to live in God’s glory, to be filled with his glorious love. Yet this invitation requires hard work on our part; it demands humility and obedience. The Son demonstrated this humility and obedience in becoming man; he then commissioned the Twelve to share in his work of preaching repentance, healing the sick, and driving out demons. Jesus called the Apostles to follow him by sharing in his sacrifice and poverty, and then to “share in his ministry of compassion and healing” (CCC, 1506). They were, in other words, given the authority to join in Christ’s prophetic work of proclaiming the Kingdom, confronting evil, and addressing sin.

“There is the double tragedy of the prophet;” wrote Knox, “he must speak out, so that he makes men dislike him, and he must be content to believe that he is making no impression whatever.” Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar put it very well: “Their call is a call to conversion, not to success.”

(This “Opening the Word” column originally appeared in the July 15, 2012 edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)

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About Carl E. Olson 1197 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. “This mystery of predestination has led to many tomes, numerous debates, and countless headaches”. Quite true. Fall from grace and restoration through Christ’s passion tells us we don’t deserve salvation, it’s a gift. God says in the Psalms he chooses whom he wills. Aquinas confirms this mystery. Nevertheless, it is a difficult truth to deal with, and your commentary response is satisfying. I would add helpful in its focus on pleasing God rather than on self assurance.

    • The issue of predestination is typically written from the perspective of the sheep (orthodox persuasion) and the sheepish (the liberal Lordy, Lordy persuasion) about what to do with the wolves, sheep in wolves’s clothing, prodigal sons, lost sheep, seeds cast on less than fertile soil or gold coins. The debaters between sheep and the sheepish do seem to agree that their predestinations are mutually exclusive but then their appreciation of Scripture becomes a tad selective.

      The expressed desire of God is that all men come unto Him though they may exercise their gifts of free will and reasoning to chose otherwise. The gifts of free will and reason provide each the opportunity to pick up our cross and follow Him(or not) to do as Mary instructed the servants to do whatever He tells you to do (or not), knowing that to love God is to be obedient to God (or not). The sheepish would contend that God loves for us results in our salvation which is true but only with the context of our willful choice to love God after which we have the grace, the will, the reason to love our neighbors, to love ourselves aligned with the will and reasoning of God. IMHO, the greater, the more sincere one’s gratitude the greater one’s potential for loving God graciously & obediently whereas increasing ingratitude leads to increasing self-service the love of self away from God to the point that God’s owes the most ungrateful for having created them in his love for them.

      That only scratches the commission side of our fallen behavior while the omission side of our fallen behavior may be far more consequential as the Rich Man learned the hard way all too late as did the 3rd servant (who squandered his talent (grace) because he did not trust God).

      To be certain, I wonder about the destiny of the Older Brother though faithful to his father, admonished his father for being gracious to his returning son, the older son, younger brother. In closing how one define’s the issue provides the basis for one addresses the issue, hence the predestination debate must be defined as comprehensively as humanly possible recognizing our human frailties allowing for the Mystery of God.

      Let us not not forget the Fall from Heaven has been attribute also to pride, all to similar to the pride of the older brother. Let us also hope that the older brother repented of his sin, seeking the forgiveness of his father whose property is to exhibit mercy and commit to sinning no more to welcomed his brother home along with the multitude of angels.

  2. “Salvation is of the Lord”…but NOT UNILATERALLY. Men must be willing to be persuaded. God works and speaks and calls. God defines and explains and empowers. God is responsible for all that I need to be saved. ALL of it. However, God does not trample my will. To do so would eliminate humans as THE SINGULAR beings like Himself in creation. I am not sure how much Molina got right but I think his explanation of this aspect of predestination was SPOT ON. After 50 years of the restlessly uneasy task of trying to get predestination to be compatible with God-like reasoned choice, I find Molin’s approach extremely satisfying. satisfying

  3. God has perfect knowledge, but we humans do not. God’s foreknowledge of events doesn’t negate free will. God is not limited to operating in a human way of thinking and acting. His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways. Too many people make God a super-powerful version of a human being. We humans operate in a universe subject to time. The name of God in His essence is YHVH(YHWH) an amalgam of the three Hebrew words for existence past, present, and future stacked one on top of the other. God is timeless. God has access to the entirety of all existence. We humans do not know what God knows, unless He communicates it to us. So we need to work on our salvation by following God’s commands. In Revelation there is a book of deeds that is used at our judgment. We need to work at making sure that our entry testifies to our faithfulness and fidelity to God.
    A lot of the Old Testament figures were shepherds. Abel was a shepherd as were Abraham, Moses, and David. The seers at Lourdes, and Fatima were shepherds. A shepherd is free to lead the flocks to good pasture. In a manner of speaking you could say that the shepherd is free of worldly attachments. I think this was the point of the story of Cain and Abel. Abel, the shepherd, was free of worldly attachments and it showed in the way he worshiped. Cain, a tiller of the ground, had too many worldly attachments that detracted from his worship. Cain was greatly upset when God cut him off from and exiled him from the land as a punishment for killing Abel.

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