A Cycle – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
Mt. 4: 12-23
Recently, I left church and was driving home and my mind was on my homiletic blog. When I got home, I could not remember anything that happened on the drive. I do not remember stopping at for traffic lights. I do not remember changing lanes, making the turns I had to make or even the speed I was driving. That has happened to me many times over my lifetime, so I do not think it has anything to do with age. It has more to do with us being familiar with doing something so many times our mind can be somewhere else while we physically can perform a task.
I know from experience we can attend mass and function without engaging our minds. In fact, familiar gospel stories, like today’s, make it easy for us to disengage because we know it so well. We know it so well most of us can readily discuss the words of Jesus and the response of Peter, Andrew, James and John. The Liturgy of the Word, according to Vatican II is to be hungered for as much as we hunger for the Eucharist. In fact, Pope Francis emphasizing that point has written an apostolic letter declaring this Sunday “Sunday of the Word” encouraging all of us to read the scriptures as part of our daily spiritual life.
The scriptures are the inspired by God and are God’s revelation of his nature and helps us discover His plan for us and how we are to respond to God. We can never become disciples if we never take the time to reflect on the things God is saying to us. Let us look at this familiar gospel story but this time let us pay attention to every aspect of it and how God is speaking to us in this familiar passage.
Keep in mind that God has a very specific word for you and in the same passage God has a general word for all of us. We also need to keep in mind the Old Testament is God revealing his plan for our restoration to intimacy with God which we lost with the sin of Adam. The Old Testament is critical to our understanding for it we will discover God’s nature and his plan for us. It is the first part of a three-part story of redemption and restoration.
We can better understand the call of Peter, Andrew, James and John by hearing the Prophet Isaiah telling us “the burden which causes us to be living apart from God is going to be removed by this great light which will come to us” (Is.9:4). Notice God is saying, He will come to us. We need to do nothing more than to pay attention because He is constantly trying to get our attention just as He went to the shores of Galilee that day. Peter and Andrew were casting their nets, doing what they did every day of their lives. In the gospel of Luke, we have more details telling us they had fished all night and caught nothing and were reluctant to go back out because they knew there was nothing to catch.
What do you see when you visualize this story? You see the frustration of working hard and the futility of not earning enough to pay the bills. You see the endless hours spend doing the same thing day after day and getting up and nothing changes, understanding this is getting you nowhere. Apply that thought to your spiritual journey and you see the same thing. You are doing the same thing each day and the result is the same. In a way we prefer it that way, for like Peter in the presence of Jesus we see our sin and it is uncomfortable.
In this familiar story, God is inviting us to do something we do not understand, and it seems to be without any real gain for us. How many times have we worked at trying to grow closer to God and we go from point a to point b without being aware of anything happening to us during the journey?
How many times have you heard an invitation to do something to encounter Jesus? If you have not heard his invitation perhaps you have been too busy doing familiar spiritual things to pay attention to the invitation to allow him to change you from laboring in your faith to walking in your faith? Listen to the gospel and hear it speaking to your heart inviting you to follow him. Jesus is inviting you to into the unknown deep and your first inclination is to say it is to resist for we have been there, and the result was the same.
Peter, Andrew, James and John up until that day had their lives planned out. Their faith had demands on them as faithful Jews. They would have showed up for the Sabbath, and performed the Shabbat, they paid the temple tax, they offered sacrifice, they believed in the promises of God and they followed the law as best they could.
If this gospel story tells us nothing more than God comes to us in the ordinary events of our lives and we begin to pay attention to those moments, then it has accomplished the task for which it was given to us. But it should be revealing more than that to us because we instinctively know there is more to the spiritual live than what we are experiencing. God has more in store for us and we are missing an opportunity to discovering the meaning and purpose of our lives. Today’s gospel reveals how God desires to pull us out of the ordinary to live in the extraordinary kingdom of God on earth.
This kingdom is one where we will discover the joy of being disciples, the wonder and awe of seeing the power of God at work and the satisfying assurance we will be given understanding of the deep love of God, the transforming power of forgiveness and the knowledge which comes to us from the Spirit.
We are called to begin a journey that will give us the confident assurance of trusting in God instead of self.
Come follow me is the invitation then and it remains the invitation now. Do we dare stop doing what we are familiar with and become disciples?