From: Fred Hollowood <email@example.com>
Sent: 21 January 2021 10:28
Subject: Parish Bulletin Sunday 24th Jan
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In the Word of God addressed to us today, two types of response to the Lord’s call emerge from the readings. First, there is the response of Jonah, the reluctant prophet sent to preach conversion to the far distant and pagan citizens of Nineveh, the capital city of Israel’s dominant invaders. Jonah turns his back on that calling and runs, taking a boat from Jaffa in the opposite direction altogether. He is reluctant to heed God’s call and avoids the mission, he flees from the God who is searching for him and sending him. This response is contrasted with the response of trust and repentance on the part of the Ninevites, pagans who had no previous knowledge of Jonah’s God, but who immediately turned to believe in him and did penance. This response is reflected in the gospel, in the immediate and positive response of the two pairs of brothers, the fishermen by the lake of Galilee – Andrew and Simon, James and John – who readily responded to the call of Jesus as he passed by. There is a face-to-face encounter, a call and response, there is openness, decisiveness, and readiness to take responsibility in following Jesus in his mission.
For St. Paul, in the second reading, ‘the time’ that he talks about, the time that is growing short… is not the time we measure in minutes and hours on our watches and calendars, or deadlines that we must meet, to pay taxes or our bills. No, for Paul, as indeed for Jesus, the time that is running out, that is being consumed, is more like a doorway, a door that is opening out onto a more ample perspective on life itself. So, that any anguish at a loss that is coming our way, as Christians we prefer to see in this time the advent of a precious opportunity that is opening for us. So, Paul recommends that we do not flatten out or collapse our whole existence onto our present situation, but that we allow it to open out our perspective towards the presence of God, just as the first disciples did, and as Paul himself on the road to Damascus, when the call to Jesus came to them – ‘Follow me!’ They understood that, yes, ‘our time is short’ and that it was necessary, urgent, even, to make a choice… the boats and the nets, the tools of their livelihood up to then, were now laid aside, and their family ties and commitments, were somehow now less binding. They were open and ready to take that great step into the unknown, based on a ‘Word’ that had conquered their hearts and souls.
We have a message here for our own calling to the faith. To be Christian believers is always, of course, a great gift, a grace, and not a conquest that we ourselves make. That gift requires a generous response on our part, like that of the first disciples, to answer the call and if necessary, to leave everything we have known up to now to follow the Lord into his kingdom. ‘To leave everything’ as disciples, does not imply that everyone that Jesus calls is supposed to drop everything, give up their profession, their possessions or their commitments and relationships, but simply that all that ‘we are’, all that we have and commit to must be oriented now in a new way, with a new direction… leading us to be with Jesus in the service of God’s kingdom. This calling gives new sense and meaning to how we live, no longer in any fragmented, confused, or restless manner, no longer self-centred or isolated or lonely in ourselves. How we live, whatever we do, all that occupies our interest and time and energies, must not remain and end, must not block or harden us to become so entangled in the nets of our preoccupations, and interests, and commitments… and lose out on the opportunity to follow the way to true life.
Canon Francis Brown