3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B (Mk 1:14-20)

Most of us have received at least one formal invitation in our lives; most likely to some significant event such as a wedding, ordination, banquet, or graduation. Generally these invitations have four letters written on them—RSVP—which stands for “répondez s’il vous plaît” or “please respond.” Common courtesy dictates that when we receive such an invitation we should respond as soon as possible, indicating our acceptance or refusal so that the host can ascertain how many will be attending. God calls each of us by name and invites us to do His will, but I wonder just how many of us ever RSVP to His invitation.

Fishers of Men

Fishers of Men

Many of us never hear His call because we surround ourselves with too much noise; too many voices—including our own—drown out any chance that we might have to hear God’s voice. And like Elijah, we all too often expect God to call us in a loud voice like a strong and heavy wind or an earthquake or fire such as we have experienced most recently. But as you recall, God’s voice was in a tiny whispering sound (1 Kgs 19:11-12) and that requires us to open our hearts and minds, to turn up our hearing aids, and to put ourselves in a place where we can hear His voice. But above all else we must listen, because when we listen we will hear His voice calling us to follow Him.

Sometimes we hear His call but feel unworthy, not up to the task that He asks us to do. But, and this is very important, when God calls you should always answer. Remember when Jonah refused God’s call the first time (Jonah 1:1-15) he ended up tossed overboard and into the belly of a whale. When God called him a second time, he never hesitated but answered the call immediately and both his life and those of Nineveh were transformed, changed forever.

Jesus called the apostles when He said “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mk 1:17) Who were those who He called, were they the pillars of the community, the wealthy or powerful? No, they were ordinary people, without wealth or position, with no special education, no social or political standing; they were ordinary fishermen, who immediately accepted His call, dropped everything, and followed Him.

When we are called by God to serve we need to understand that He will never ask us to do more than what we are capable of doing nor should we believe that we have nothing to offer. If we place our trust in God He will guide us through the darkest times and show us the way.

When God calls it can be traumatic, it almost certainly will be life-changing. Often you may not be prepared or you may be reluctant to respond. You always have a choice; you may either ignore His call or open yourself to His will. The difficulty lies in realizing that if you say yes your life will be changed forever, you will be a new person, and the future is always unknown.

For me, I heard that tiny whispering sound for over thirty years but stubbornly refused to listen. It was always there but I was too busy with life to acknowledge God’s call. What I did not realize then was that like Jonah, I had been tossed overboard into the belly of the beast; but unlike Jonah, rather than 3 days, it took thirty years before I found freedom and God’s mercy. When God called a second time it was as if he took a baseball bat to the back of my head; and like Jonah, I did not refuse to hear His call the second time.

We must understand that God is outside of time, or as Peter wrote “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) What to us is a very long time is no time at all to God. He is infinitely patient, willing to give us all the time in the world to respond to Him. What we must do, all that we are required to do is to place our trust in God, know that He loves us, and that He will give us all the gifts and grace we need to do His will.

Accepting God’s will is seldom easy; there will always be obstacles and difficulties placed before us. But as long as we place ourselves in His hands we can be assured that He will be there to see us through the rough spots.

After ordination last September, I became a new person. I truly do not recognize who I was before. I cannot explain it except to say that I was transformed by the Holy Spirit into this new me. I often feel guilty in all the joy I receive in serving Him in such a poor way. I only regret that I did not listen when He began to call me so long ago. All the joy that I have missed simply because I refused to listen; I failed to place my trust in Him, believing that I was in control, that I was the master of my own destiny.

We have this natural inclination to believe that when things are going well it is of our own choosing; but when difficult times arise we look to God and ask why? We are quick to believe that God has deliberately and intentionally placed obstacles in our path and we want Him to remove them so that we can continue merrily on our way. What we fail to understand is that God’s path is the easy one and that it is we who create the difficulties and obstacles in the road by not putting our faith in God and giving control of our lives over to Him.

Recently, I was diagnosed with a serious health issue that will require major surgery in a few weeks. While I have been told that I have a good heart, some of my plumbing needs some major repair. This will require splitting me open, stopping my heart, replacing a portion of my aorta with a piece of garden hose, and then trying to restart my engine with an ignition system that has only been used once 65 years ago.

To say that I am a wee bit nervous would be an understatement. This past week, after a restless and sleepless night filled with bouts of panic attacks, I served at a communion service. It was difficult for me to focus on the service until, at the responsorial psalm, we proclaimed “In God I trust…” Upon saying those words all my anxiety and fears left me. I know that God has a plan for me; that I am not in control, He is.

I am at peace knowing that He is with me, beside me, around me, and within me. I realize that He waited patiently for me to listen to His call and to répondez s’il vous plaît and that He has much more in store for me to do. I am so very blessed by His love and the love of those around me and I have discovered, perhaps later than most, that that is more than enough.

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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