How will you respond?

There is a strange irony in how we choose to live our lives these days. We carry smart phones and a myriad of wireless devices everywhere we go so that we can stay in touch or be touched at any moment of any day by virtually anyone, and yet … we say our privacy is very important to us and we expend copious amounts of energy in all manner of machinations to keep from letting anyone know anything at all about us. It is strange irony indeed.

Fishers of Men

Fishers of Men

An old English proverb describes those who were born into wealth as being born with a silver spoon in their mouth but these days wouldn’t it be more apropos to say that every newborn is now born with a smart phone in their ear and a Facebook page on the iPad which they receive at the moment of their birth. How else might they reach out and touch someone. Heaven forbid that they miss a single call!

It is perhaps even more ironic when we find ourselves receiving unsolicited and unwelcome calls, usually at the most inappropriate of times. Like the one I am receiving right this minute. …

Hello, who is this?” <pause> “Oh, really? You know God, now is really not the best time. Could I call you back? I mean, I’m kind of busy at the moment and …” <pause> “You what? You want me to stop what I am doing and just walk out the door? I can’t do that? We are in the middle of Mass!” <pause> “Wait a minute Lord. Look, first of all, I hate fishing and second, there is an entire church full of people here and I don’t want to be rude to them so I’m going to hang up now. OK? I’ll call you later.”

How many times have we been called to do something that we found inconvenient or unwanted? We have all received those unsolicited calls from political campaigns, unknown organizations asking us to give them money, even scam artists asking for personal information, and most of us simply hang up rather than listening to their spiel because it annoys us or we simply aren’t interested in what they are selling.

Isn’t that how we often respond when God calls? We are far too busy to listen, after all whatever God wants from us is never going to be as important as what we are doing right now, is it? All too often our first response is to say no, to flee, and to run away as fast as possible, just as Jonah did. God asked Jonah to simply go to Nineveh and preach against their wickedness. But Jonah was having nothing to do with that.

Isn’t it interesting how many times we try to run away from God, all the while knowing that he is perfectly aware of where we are and what we are doing? And even as we are trying so hard to hide from him, he is enjoying himself tremendously by making our situation untenable and our lives thoroughly miserable. Far better would it be to simply say “yes” to God and do whatever he asks of us.

Years ago, I worked for an uncle on his farm. One of his most often repeated phrases was “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right the first time for then you won’t waste time having to do it more than once.” And as Saint Paul tells us, “time is running out[1] which means we may only have one shot at responding positively to God’s call. Are you willing to bet the house against God?

As Jesus walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee he came upon some fisherman, doing what fisherman do, which is either fishing or mending and maintaining their equipment. And we hear him simply say to four of them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men[2] and immediately, immediately they drop everything and follow Jesus.

Now immediately I have a few questions!

Here we have two brothers, Simon and Andrew, who both have families and mouths to feed, hearing a passing stranger tell them to follow him and they look at each other and say “Sounds good to me bro’, let’s do it”? And then there’s Zebedee, the father of James and John. He’s got this family business you see, named it Zeb and Sons, doing quite well he would say. One minute Zeb’s sons are diligently mending their nets and then without so much as a “later dude” they traipse off following some itinerant preacher. And we are supposed to believe that their old man is OK with that? I don’t think so! So what are we to believe? How can we begin to understand what they were thinking?

We can find some answers by recalling that John the Baptist stated to two of his disciples as Jesus walked by, “Behold, the Lamb of God[3] and that the two then followed Jesus and stayed with him. The two disciples are traditionally identified as Andrew, the brother of Simon, and John, the son of Zebedee and the brother of James. You might also recall that Andrew subsequently brought Simon to meet Jesus whom he had recognized as the Messiah.

There are two other points to be mentioned that have bearing on what we have heard so far. In the Gospel of John, the four brothers meet Jesus while John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing, before Jesus began his public ministry. When Jesus calls them to follow him in the Gospel of Mark, John the Baptist had been arrested and would soon be beheaded. So the most obvious conclusion to be made here is that Jesus was already well-acquainted with Andrew, Simon, James, and John when he called them to follow him. And we can presume that they were prepared to follow Jesus wherever he would lead them.

Jesus called twelve men to follow him, to be his Apostles and to go out and preach the Good News. These were not scholars, or priests, or royalty, or men of noble or learned stature. They were uneducated fishermen, a tax collector, and otherwise ordinary people with no obvious abilities outside their common trades. Yet Jesus called them to do something so completely beyond their abilities to comprehend: to go out to all the nations and spread the Good News.

Were they afraid? You bet! Did they have any doubts? You know they did! Did they say “Yes”? Eventually, but only after a lot of kicking and screaming on their part! Were there risks? All but one gave their lives in the service of their Lord God and Savior. And they gave their lives with great joy and gratitude for all that they had been asked to do in his name.

An apostle, from the Greek ἀπόστολος (apóstolos), is quite literally “one who is sent away”, a messenger or an ambassador. While we speak of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ and call St. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, we also believe that all the bishops of the church are the apostolic successors of the original Apostles chosen by Jesus. But we are all called to be apostles. We are all called by Jesus to be sent away, to be messengers, to be ambassadors, called to spread the Good news of Jesus Christ.

God has called each of us to do his will in a very special and unique way. We can always say “No” and do whatever we want or we can say “Yes” and do what God asks us to do. Either way, it is our choice. But it is only by saying “Yes” that you may be called an apostle of the Lord. And finally know this, that when he asks you to come after him, all he is asking you to do is to go fishing.

 

Reading I: Jon 3:1-5, 10; Reading II: 1 1 Cor 7:29-31; Gospel: Mk 1:14-20.

[1] 1 Cor 7:29.

[2] Mk 1:17.

[3] Jn 1:36.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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