Sunday, January 24
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 1: 14-20
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.
I don’t know about you but I am still reeling from the riot and violence at the US Capitol on January 6th and all that has transpired since then. Back in May when I watched on TV the murder of George Floyd, I found that I could barely breathe. For months we have heard that one of the effects of COVID-19 is the inability or at least difficulty in breathing. So many things have left me breathless.
I have only stood in the Capitol Building once. I was breathless as I stood there in wonder and awe of all that it stood for in our country. On January 6 when I watched on TV the horrific actions of hatred that spilled out at the US Capitol, I again could barely catch my breath and tears rolled down my face. Perhaps, like many of you, I could not believe that what I was seeing was happening in the Capital, the sacred place of our country and government, in real-time and in my lifetime. I am still in a state of shock and disbelief and holding a great sense of sorrow and heartache. I vacillate between feelings of rage and a sense of speechlessness. How did such hatred and so many divisions happen? In the face of turbulent times in our country, our world and our church, where the needs run great and the complexity even greater, who are we to be, and what are we to do? How do we live with religious ambiguity and bring to it hope and light? I do believe the time of sitting back and watching is over. The time, like it was for the four in today’s gospel, for mending fishing nets, is over. The time of only saying how awful it all is and then moving about our daily activities can no longer be the path we choose. Yet how do we love in the face of hatred? How do we begin to mend a world that is so fractured? How do I reflect on today’s gospel passage? I grew up during President Kennedy’s tenure. He said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” How pertinent that is for us today.
In this week’s gospel passage, we again hear the call of Andrew and Peter and we also hear the call of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Reflecting on this particular scripture passage (the call of the first disciples) with these men quietly sitting by the Sea of Galilee mending fishing nets while we sit in the midst of such religious and global uncertainty seems not only daunting but seemingly so irrelevant to what is happening in the country right now. How do we weave the two together? Do the stories of the call of the disciples two weeks in a row hold some special significance? Is God trying to get our attention? Is Jesus calling and recalling us to be his followers? Could this passage actually be very relevant for the times in which we are living?
The four in the gospel today just got up and left the business to follow Jesus. Most of us may hear the story and the voices in our heads may tell us that it is naïve to think and nearly impossible to leave everything to follow Jesus. Most of us, truth be told, would find it very hard to leave work, family, friends and all the rest to venture into such an uncertain future. We will have many good and valuable reasons why that is not practical — not responsible, not even desired. What would make someone pick up and leave everything behind? Jesus is just beginning his ministry so they did not have the message and teaching of Jesus laid out before them, as we do in the Gospels. Why did they do it? What made them do it?
Last week’s passage coupled with this week’s passage offers great questions. From Jesus “What are you looking for?” From the disciples “Where do you live?” and Jesus’s response – “Come and See.” Where do you live implies a house and as I have mentioned many times before, a house in the scripture is more often than not a metaphor for the heart. Where is the heart of Jesus? It is with the disenfranchised, the poor, the neglected, those unwelcomed and those in need of healing. The heart of Jesus is about confronting religious and civil authorities that choose power over compassion, who work harder at separating people than uniting them. The heart of Jesus is about challenging those who put self-interest before the common good. The heart of Jesus does not separate people because of the color of their skin, their choice of political party, economic status, etc. The heart of Jesus does not hesitate to speak truth to power. If these men knew that this is “where Jesus lived” would they have left everything to follow Jesus? We do know that this is what Jesus is about. Does knowing ”where Jesus lives,” knowing Jesus’ heart, make us reluctant or hesitant to leave it all and follow him?
They did not have an easy time in living out their decision to be a follower of Jesus. As the gospel unfolds in the next few months, we learn that they sometimes end up disappointing, denying and abandoning Jesus at various points in their journey. That sounds like our discipleship journey too. Disciples mess up but then they get up, ask for and accept forgiveness and move on.
As we look at the multitude of pandemics that continue to sweep across our world: coronavirus, systemic racism, injustice, violence, economic insecurity, scarcity of food, for so many, the destruction of the planet and the latest horror and fear brought on by the unbridled hatred and violence at our nation’s capital, we might wonder what are we to do?
Truth be told, I would rather just sit quietly by a lake mending my fishing nets. It is not easy to hear the call, sometimes I pretend I don’t hear it. Yet, Jesus is relentless and unrelenting. He needs his followers to go and see that the needs of our brothers and sisters are great. He needs us to respond. What might we have to leave behind to follow him? I don’t think Jesus is asking us to leave behind our work or our family. But what might we have to leave behind? I have to leave my own prejudices, my own biases, opinions, my own racism, attitudes and self-righteousness. What might you have to leave behind? Remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, JR – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Will we choose darkness and hate or will we leave everything, go and see where Jesus lives (his heart) and follow Jesus with light and love? Will we be weighed down by the hatred in the world or choose to be lifted up by the power of God and guided by the Spirit with us?
Sister Teresa Tuite, OP
P.S. The above was written before the inauguration of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris. Thank God it was peaceful. Now the work begins for each of us.