A Call to Serve the Lord

01-21-2018Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend our first reading is from the Book of the prophet Jonah and our Gospel is from the Gospel of Mark. These two passages illustrate what an instantaneous and positive response to the message of God can be. The Prophet Jonah has the mission of preaching conversion to so far unrepentant Nineveh. The demand for repentance barely leaves Jonah's lips, and the whole city rises up to obey. The people immediately repent in sackcloth and ashes.

In our Gospel passage for this day, Jesus is walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Two different times our Lord encounters a set of brothers, who abandon their nets at his call. We know that such spontaneous and obedient responses appear rarely. Our scripture this weekend recounts two of these events. These passages bear a very important point for us. It is that God expects such a response from us. God's call to us is the Good News that we can have. This may imply giving up the bad news of our easy and often shallow habits, not someday or tomorrow, but rightnow.

This call from God invites our free response. In our second reading we learn that Paul invites us in life to travel light and also, to lead lives unburdened of those things that threatento drag us down. Clearly it would be drawing the wrong conclusion to infer that Paul is denigrating marriage or any other human good. He is, instead, plainly calling attention to the fact that responding to Christ's summons means achieving a point of view that focuses the stuff of human life toward God.

From the scripture we know that the people of Nineveh responded immediately, but strangely enough Jonah didn't. He certainly resisted. He had to be tossed overboard and coughed up on shore before he finally accepted his prophetic mission - the conversion of thewilling and pliable people of Nineveh.

We hear in the Gospel account of Mark that the call of the disciples shows them accepting their mission instantly. The disciples abandon their old ways without a second thought. Imagine yourself leaving your workplace at the drop of the hat without announcement or future plan or any other thought. Everyone, those who know you and those who do not, would search for a reason. In the passage we learn that the call of Jesus to the disciples touched their deeper inner core. The men recognized the one truth that was meant for them. This was the promised one of God and they were on their way with him. They discovered in him the true freedom of the sons and daughters of God. In this new undertaking they were truly free, free to serve the Lord in a new and undreamed of way. Saint Paul describes this sort of freedom in acceptance of the Lord's mission. He tells us that people who take up the mission of Jesus Christ can be free from the day-to-day worries that can drain the life out of a person. Remember that the Christian is not called to detach himself or herself from the world, from family, from relationships. Rather, the Christian must involve himself or herself in these very real worries and concerns so that they can be shaped and managed to serve the work of Christ. Christians are called to use all the tools that are on hand. And only then can he or she help in the work of freeing others and helping them see and experience the presence of God, not by transcending this world, but by creatively taking it on.