3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
2011 Matthew 4:12-23
Tony van Vuuren
In the few lines of the Gospel given for today we hear how Jesus picks up where John the Baptist left off;
Last week, John the Baptist gave us a great example of what it takes to get nominated for a lifetime achievement award for the best prophet in a supporting role.
He clearly says — I am not the Christ. Instead he readily accepts his role as a preparer — as the pointer; and once John is arrested, and the great voice in the wilderness is silenced it is time for Jesus to begin His preaching, and as Matthew tells us; in the most unlikely area of Galilee, considered by most devout Jews, Matthew included as a land of DARKNESS:
“Repent, the kingdom of the Lord is at hand.”
We are told that Jesus has come to fulfil the scriptures as Matthew links both Jesus’ location and what He is doing to Isaiah’s prophecy. In Jesus, Isaiah’s prophecy has taken flesh; and as Jesus travels through Galilee we will see that His ministry expands to include the Gentiles, who are very much part of the Galilean world.
When Matthew writes of the call of the first disciples, there is no suggestion of any hesitation on the part of the four fishermen. He does not tell us why they follow Jesus.
His story is simple; focusing on the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry; Jesus calls them and they follow Him. Nothing is promised, nothing is signed; no signing on bonus and no escape clause bonus!
Contrary to the practice of a rabbi, Jesus chooses his disciples, rather than the disciples choosing him.
They will soon learn though that they are chosen to follow; not to simply listen and learn, but to take an active part in His ministry; to become fishers of men, called to gather people into God’s kingdom.
These four men are simple fishermen; ordinary guys. God is filled with surprises and has a wonderful habit of doing this kind of thing. Consider the cast of characters we see called in scripture: Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, and Paul to name but a few. They all come up with excuses when they are called upon or prompted to get up and take action — but to their credit they all do respond in the end.
Moses says he cannot speak in public, (reminds me of myself!) Isaiah says that the kind of speech that has passed through his lips is too impure to be a prophet; Jeremiah says that he is too young; In the Gospel of Luke Peter claims that he is too sinful, and Paul says that he is unworthy.
It is clear that God does what God wills.
The cast of characters that God has chosen throughout salvation history to be His instruments of justice, mercy, love and compassion have been colourful, earthy individuals.
Still, we often do ourselves the disservice — and Satan loves this part — of consistently disqualifying ourselves from ever considering ourselves to be called by God to be His instrument.
We may understand intellectually that God has chosen many people like ourselves to be His workers; but it so often ends there.
Spiritually we lower our heads, walk into the darkness, and jump on the ever-revolving merry-go-round of self unworthiness that never stops for the hope of being called.
We may say to ourselves —
Where is my vision?
Where is my voice from God?
Where is my miraculous the big call that wipes out my unworthiness? But that is so wrong. So wrong!
Firstly we need to understand that we have all been called by God through our baptism; and then we need to recognize ourselves in the Gospel’s call of the first Apostles.
This call isn’t for upper-class disciples, reserved only for a few chosen ones. The first disciples come to understand that Jesus can give them the only thing worth having—knowledge of God.
The same goes for us. It is this realisation that the only real answers to the great questions of life are to be found in Jesus that triggers our desire to follow Him. Unlike the first disciples we don’t actually see the man; we have His words recorded in the Gospels, and of course His presence in the Eucharist.
There is always a before and after in the lives of those called by Jesus. For some the calling is a gradual process that takes time; while for others the call is an unexpected and all-encompassing lightning bolt experience!
We have been given the insight to see that He really is the way, the truth and the life, just as He claimed to be. And we need to respond to His call.
This is surely the action of God’s grace in our lives. If we have the courage of recognizing ourselves as an instrument of the love and goodness of God; in other words feeling loved by and connected to God; then it should follow that anytime we have an impulse to love or do something good, we should recognize it comes from God.
The impulse comes from God, the love comes from God; the good things come from God. That impulse declares us called. The love and goodness flows through us as instruments.
Every tugging, pulling, pushing, little voice in one’s head prompting to do something beautiful for another person is a call.
Every prompting to share something good is a call. We are sinners. We are characters. Yet, we are still called. We are still instruments.
God does what God wills.
If we get stuck in the rut of thinking –that I do these loving actions simply because I am a mother, father, wife, husband, family member, caregiver, teacher, CEO, nurse, doctor, social worker, etc., and these actions are just expected of me, then we dismiss from where these impulses come from and from where the source of all love flows — God.
We are the 13th disciples for the world we inhabit. It is our task to become so well acquainted with the message of Jesus that we can teach it to others.
We need to immerse ourselves in the Gospel, become completely familiar with the words of Jesus and know him deeply through a lively conversation with him in prayer.
It is only when we do these things that we will become effective in our task. This sounds like a lot to live up to. It sounds perhaps more than we bargained for.
It might even be something we are very reluctant to do. But, this is our mission; this is our God given task; glorifying the Lord by our lives. I think this applies to a group of 18 young St Michael’s parishioners who have been called to form the Life Teen Core Team. Together with Tim our youth minister they have undertaken the huge and I am sure daunting responsibility of launching the Life Teen program and leading the teens of our parish into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ; encouraging them to explore their faith and grow in community.
Please keep them in your prayers.
God has chosen them; God chooses us, we do not choose Him. His grace has been quietly acting in our lives all along. We might think that we are not worthy or up for the task but He knows best. Those first apostles weren’t made of very promising material and I don’t suppose many of us are either.
Even while they were with Jesus they misunderstood His intentions and went so far as to desert, doubt, deny and even betray Him. And yet these were the ones He chose, they were the ones on whom He built his Church.
They deserted Him but He did not desert them. And when Jesus ascended to the Father He bequeathed them His Holy Spirit to be with them as a guide and protector.
This same Spirit has been poured out on us and is with us in this great task we have been given to make Christ known to our world. In taking up this task, like the first apostles, we will find that there are things we must leave behind. And like them too, this is a journey we embark on without knowing where it will lead us. But it is a journey of faith, under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit and undertaken on behalf of Jesus Christ Himself.
We are His ambassadors, we are His apostles, we are His messengers of love to the world we live in. How can we refuse such a mission?