January 24, 2021 At St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, FL
Jonah 3, 1-5 + Psalm 25 + 1 Corinthians 7, 29-31 + Mark 1, 14-20
There is a very subtle yet important distinction needed to understand this Gospel. It is the difference between a “vocation” and a “purpose.” They are not always the same. A vocation might be a career or a talent that shows up with a job skill. A purpose is entirely different, and that is what Mark leads us to reflect upon and eventually to resolve as this Gospel moves forward.
Those men Jesus calls today have a career: fishing. It is their vocation. Jesus comes along and invites them to follow him and discover their purpose. He finds them at work, exercising their skill. He invites them to use that skill for a different purpose. Rather than using that skill to earn money and success, he will show them how to use that skill to win the hearts and lives of others for the Kingdom of God. They are going to keep fishing, casting a net; but the purpose of fishing will be different.
We all have a vocation that emerges from the skills we were born with or the those we acquired in school. Many educational systems have Vocational-Technical schools that teach the skills of a vocation. When it comes to purpose, there is also a school that we call the Gospel. In that school, we learn how to discern what our purpose in life should be. Parenting is a vocation. The purpose of parenting is to bring children into this life and lead them into everlasting life. Social work is a vocation. The purpose of Social work is to extend the mercy of God to those who need it most. An attorney has a vocation. Their purpose is Justice. Teaching is a vocation. The purpose of teaching it to awaken the minds and hearts of students to recognize their gifts and seize the opportunities that come in life to use those gifts to build a better world.
So, here we sit as Jesus speaks to us through Mark’s Gospel. There is an invitation being extended to all of us. It is an invitation to discover and realize our purpose in life. It isn’t to make a lot of money. It isn’t to look good, or be admired by others. What Jesus invites us to do and is ready to show us how is to discover why and what we were made for. This arouses in us what I like to call, a “homing instinct” which is a desire for our true home where we shall be what we were always meant to be. That is what he calls those men in this Gospel for. He calls them to become disciples which ultimately means to become like the teacher: to know what the teacher knows, to do what the teacher does, and to be what the teacher is: a child of God. In other words, discipleship is the path to divinization. It is the way we cleanup, polish up, clear up, or whatever you want to call, it is the way we restore how we were made: in the image of God.
The Incarnation, the coming of God in human flesh in this life is God taking up our fallen humanity. It is a free gift of God’s own loving kindness in a truly personal way. What has been revealed to us by God through the Son and by the power of Spirit is that God is an overflowing fullness of personal relationships: The Holy Trinity. By the sinful choices of human kind, we step out of that relationship, and the consequence is called “individualism”. It is deadly. It shows itself in an attitude that insists on doing things my way, or doing things that I want to do with no thought of how it might affect another. This destroys communion. It breaks up community. The undeniable sign of that individualism shows up in thinking and acting as though I am independent; or, as some like to say these days, “I’m free because this is a free country”. This is not the way home, and that kind of thinking and acting could hardly be further from the image by which we were made.
There is an invitation offered today. Be my disciples. Follow me, and learn from me your purpose in life. Ultimately that purpose is communion: to be at one with each other and with God. Remember St Paul said to us that there are three things that last: Faith, Hope, and Love. When we come to the end and are awakened into eternal life, there will be no need for faith, and there will be nothing to hope for, but what will last is Love, and to live in that love right now is our purpose, and remembering that is all that matters.