Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reflections on the Gospel for Epiphany III - Matthew 4:12-23

Read the Gospel text here - Matthew 4:12-23
Many years ago, during my internship in California, I attended a prayer retreat and spent some time with a spiritual director talking about hearing the voice of God.  Does God speak to us? How do we hear God speaking to us?  How can we discern what God is saying?  Those were among the questions I posed.  Of course, there are no simple answers for those kinds of questions, as God speaks to us all in different ways.  However, one thing he told me has always stayed with me.  He said that the issue for us contemporary Christians is not so much whether or not God is speaking to us or not, but whether or not we are listening.  From the moment of our Baptism, he suggested, God begins a dialog with us and for us the biggest challenge is to be able to quiet ourselves enough to be able to listen and hear what it is that God is trying to say.  There is so much going on in our lives, and when we find time to pray we have so much to say and to tell God that we are inclined to do all of the talking.  Is this not true?
I thought of this as I studied the text from the Gospel of Matthew for this weekend.  In this text Jesus calls his first disciples – Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John.  It has always struck me that there seems to have been little resistance to responding to the call.  The Gospels all report that they left their nets and followed.  Perhaps they did not think this would be a long commitment.  Perhaps they thought, well I can give up and afternoon or two to listen to the teacher.  But it turned out to be more than just an afternoon or two.  There is a scene in the movie “Jesus of Nazareth” where Peter is talking with Matthew late one night and begins to talk about his plans to return home to his family and fishing.  After some silence Matthew responds, “You won’t go back, you can’t go back.  None of us can.”  Once Jesus became a part of their lives, there was no turning back.  This call was a call to follow forever, through good times and difficult times.
In the 2nd lesson for today from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians Paul is chastising this community for what he considers unfaithfulness to their call.  The wonderful thing about this letter is how it starts out (the lesson from last week).  Paul begins the letter, not in anger or by listing all of their transgressions.  Rather he starts out by reminding them that they are all called to be saints, called to be followers of Christ – just like him.  On that foundation then he builds his admonishments.  The call to follow Jesus is the foundation of the community and of individual lives and is not something we do only part-time. 
We too are all called to be saints; we too are called to be followers of Christ.  From the moment of our Baptism God has begun a dialog with us; a journey with us.  To what are we called?  To follow and to live lives which are reflective of God’s love and grace; to care for and about others; and to recognize that God is on this journey with us, forever.  Perhaps there are times when we do not recognize that God is with us, when we feel alone.  But God is always with us, God loves us and God will sustain us.  This calling is not a promise that things will always be perfect.  But it is a promise that no matter what God will be with us, speaking with us, guiding us and loving us. 
            Baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we are called to listen; we are called to follow.  For each of us that means something different; and it is different for us in different stages in our lives.  But what never changes is that God is on the journey with us, God is always talking to us, God loves us and is present with us.  Nothing can change this.  But are we listening?

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