sexta-feira, 20 de janeiro de 2012

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 22, 2012

Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

In Mark's Gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry by doing two important tasks: he preaches the King of God is at hand now and then he calls his first disciples. Jesus first encounters Simon Peter and his brother Andrew actively casting their fishing nets into the sea; together they come upon the Zebedee sons, James and John who were mending their nets. To show the immediacy of the present moment, Jesus asks the men to leave their profession behind to help him proclaim God's good news.

Paul's first letter to the Corinthians reveals the haste of taking care of the present time. Time is of great importance and we are to use our time well, which means that we have to decide our greatest priorities. The first reading from Jonah reminds us that our response to the call of Jesus may be fraught with challenging tasks that we would not choose to do one our own. Jonah was given the thorny work of asking the Ninevites to repent from their sinful ways so God will spare them. To Jonah's surprise, they took his prophetic advice by repenting and turning towards God. Jonah relented too.

A problem that arises with these Gospel call narratives is that we see them as complete divinely predetermined choices by God through Jesus. We see them as single incidences that are once and for all settled. This precludes us from looking at them as a model for the way Christ personally calls us or to see the evolving nature of one's call. Christ is always calling us into deeper relationship. It is never one and done.

A call to discipleship is first a call to be in relationship with Jesus. Just as we grow in our human friendships, our friendship with Jesus progresses. Since each of us is unique, we cannot anticipate the ways it will grow because we bring a particular expression to it. We learn the ways we respond to one another and come to respect each other's boundaries. Jesus invites us successively into a greater commitment to him as we allow him to commit his fidelity to us. We grow together. We have our ups and downs. We learn how to navigate through the language of our relationship.

Many people identify with Peter because he seems so like us. It is because he was fully human. We note the ways he excelled and failed with Jesus. At his first encounter with Jesus, he learned that he was an honorable man with great wisdom. Through his experience of connecting with Jesus, he was able to see the divinity in him because he was a wonder-worker, a scribe with unparalleled authority, and a man whose prayer kept him close to God, whom he called Abba. Knowledge of the identity of Jesus came about through his continued experience of him.

I find it helpful to ask people to consider how their relationship with Christ matured over the years. Just like the early disciples, we hold questions about Jesus that we are reluctant to ask. We withhold information and stories from him that determine our trust levels. We have to ask, "Am I growing in freedom, humility, honesty, and freedom in my life with Christ?" and "Am I becoming a person who holds meaningful information close to my vest or am I a person who is becoming more open to him?"

We always wonder about Christ's will for us. We wonder how we can figure it out so we can be faithful to it. Relax. God's will is always expressed in the "now" and God will act through our own desires. Therefore, our job is to express what we want and need. God who is generous will give us what we want. God will affirm us when we do the good God wants and our conscience will feel pangs when we stray from the path. We fundamentally have to honor and respect our feelings because those are the places where God typically meet us. We have to get out of our heads and down into our hearts because God's heart is beating to communicate with our hearts. The heart is the unmistakable place of encounter. The heart is where the call is experienced.

Pay attention to your feelings this week - even though many of them will conflict and overlap. As you respect what you feel, ask Christ to honor your feelings too. Then let him ask you, "What do you want?" and "What do you need?" When we talk at his foundational level, we feel a tug to be closer to Christ. In other words, he is still calling you - calling you closer to him. His call is personal and ever-present. His call is always about the immediacy of the kingdom of God now in this world.

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