The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
21 January 2018 At St. Peter and St. William Churches in Naples, FL
Jonah 3, 1-5, 10 + Psalm 25 + 1 Corinthians 7, 29-31 + Mark 1, 14-20
At the time of Jesus, it was customary for most people to choose a rabbi and become a disciple in order to learn the law. The disciples did the choosing. With these Gospel verses, there is something happening that is out of the ordinary. Instead of these men choosing Jesus as their rabbi and becoming one of his disciples, Jesus does the choosing. He chose them. They do not choose him. There is something unique going on here, and we might pay attention to it.
Before retiring, when I helped with the formation of couples in preparation for marriage, I would often remind them that even though they thought they had chosen each other for marriage, it was not so. God did the choosing. God put them together, and if it was not the will of God, it wasn’t going to last. In my own seminary formation, we were constantly urged to discern God’s call asking whether or not service to the church was really what God wanted of us. When I was the director of seminarians for my diocese and someone came in telling me they were going to be a priest, I knew we had a long way to go before that was going to happen. In this age of choice, when everyone seems to think it is their right to choose everything from the color of a car to whether or not another human being lives the action of this Gospel and part of its message seems like a new idea, but it isn’t. God has been making choices for a long time, longer than we can even imagine. The scriptures are full of the stories of God making choices, of who would be a prophet, who would be God’s people, where they would live, who would be king, who would give flesh to his son, and who would be his disciples.
Each of us might ask ourselves now and then, what we’re doing here, how we got here, and most of all why God chose us and not someone else. There are, you know, more people not here today than there will ever be in this church. Perhaps the Gospel we proclaim this Sunday is not about Peter, Andrew, James, and John. It seems to reveal something to us about how God works and about how people who experience Jesus Christ respond. God finds us doing what we do every day from mending nets to folding laundry, from driving to work to playing golf. He might find us here, but more likely we’re here because he found us somewhere else.
The message spoken by Jesus and his invitation to the Kingdom of God is spoken in this place today because, when we come face to face with this Gospel we are face to face with Jesus himself. My friends, we must stop thinking that the Kingdom of God is some place or some time period yet to come. The Kingdom of God is a new state of mind that brings about a new way of living. It grows through a web of relationship’s in which people experience loving union with God and one another. Jesus showed us what it looked like by his relationships with others, and he taught us to pray for it as we shall soon do. In that prayer, we find the best and most concise interpretation of the meaning: “Kingdom of God”: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. The Kingdom is where ever and whenever God’s will is done. What this Gospel reveals is that God is calling every one of us, and our first response to that call is to do the will of God right now without delay, and with every decision of our lives consider carefully what God’s will might be.