Sunday, January 25, 2009
Image: The Fishers of Men Ministry
Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
At first glance, the way Simon, Andrew, James and John
respond to Jesus’ call may seem extraordinary:
they drop everything and head off in a new direction.
If that’s proposed to us as an example for how we might live,
it may seem impractical, impossible.
But what’s really happening here is something we all experience
when there’s a change the “ordering principle” of our lives,
a change in whatever or, more importantly, whomever
is at the center of our existence.
If you think you’ve not experienced this,
then remember the first time you fell in love
and how that one other person began to occupy
your heart, your mind, your dreams, your hopes, your plans.
Remember how the ordering principle of your life changed
when you got engaged to be married.
Remember how your world was reordered
when you learned that you were expecting a child.
Remember how the universe was never the same again
after you lost someone you deeply loved.
Think of how your work, your job,
can be the ordering principle in your life
and how that’s all thrown off kilter when you lose your job.
And who doesn’t realize in these unstable economic times
how easily our finances become the ordering principle in our lives.
Perhaps this gospel story tells it just as it happened:
Jesus walks by, says, “Come, follow me,” and off the fishermen go.
Or perhaps it’s more like a posed snapshot
intended to sum up a larger story.
Think of a photo of a newly married couple,
holding their hands forward
and looking together at their wedding rings.
The picture tells a story but it shows us only a moment
in a relationship that has been years in the making,
a relationship that will reorder the couple’s lives
until death parts them.
Whether it's "love at first sight"
or a relationship that grows day by day over years,
the love at the center of our hearts orders our lives.
For us to give serious consideration to this gospel story
we’ll need to spend some time discerning what is presently
the ordering principle in our lives.
(This is a good question for anyone to ask
and it certainly is a question for believers.)
Sometimes we may presume that the love we're pledged to
is the one that orders our lives
but there are many times when other realities
hedge the one we may name as most important.
For a pastor like me,
Christ should be the center, the ordering principle, of my life.
But what if my work, even my work for Christ, consumes me -
such that there’s little or no time left for my prayer life,
no time left for me to spend quietly with Jesus…
Certainly the same can be said of the married person
consumed by work – work to support a beloved family.
But if that work is consuming to the degree
that one has little time left to spend with the family...
Well, you see how it can go...
Perhaps the key to our understanding this gospel passage
would be for us to ask ourselves the question:
For whom is my heart’s deepest desire?
For whom will I drop everything else
and leave behind even critically important realities
in faithfulness to the one who is the heart of my heart?
What is so precious to me that I would let go everything
in favor of such a beloved?
On a wedding day, on an ordination day,
these answers may come quickly and easily.
As time goes by, the answers may change
and the questions may be harder to answer.
St. Paul called us today to reexamine everything in our lives:
our loves, our marriages,
the tears of our griefs, the laughter of our joy,
and everything we have and possess and use
and to know, to understand that all this will pass away -
and all that will remain will be the love of God for us.
Make no mistake about it:
the Lord asks to be the One
for whom we would put everything else aside.
But, as with Jonah, the reluctant prophet,
so is the Lord with us.
He continues to call us to lay aside what we’re doing,
to abandon the nets that entangle our priorities,
and to follow him, to be with him,
to spend our lives with him and for him.
We gather each week in the shadow of the cross of Jesus,
the great sign that reminds us that he let go,
laid down everything for us
- for he loved us more than life itself.
At this table every week he invites us, he calls us again and again
to be filled with his life in the bread and cup of the Eucharist
and to follow him along the path of our hearts’ desire.
Listen for his voice:
as he called Peter, Andrew, James and John,
so he calls each of us by name: “Come, follow me…”
Posted by Austin Fleming at 2:49 PM