First Reading: Is 9:1-4; Psalm: 27. R. v. 1a; Second Reading: 1Cor 1:10-13.17; Gospel: Mt 4:12-23
SEARCHING FOR LIFE’S OASIS
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
The Sahara Desert located in Northern Africa is the largest desert in the world. Geographically, this desert is made up mainly of rocky landscapes. An average percentage of its topography contains dry sand, gravel, stones, arid valleys, mountains and water. Ordinarily, the Sahara desert is not a conducive environment to human sustenance in view of its dryness. But history and civilization have defied the odds as migrants and refugees have settled and survived in this harsh environment. And how was this possible? Oasis.
An oasis is a fertile spot in a desert that contains some quantity of water. People who live in the Sahara desert build their houses around or next to water where crops and aquatic life can survive. History reported that pioneer settlers in this desert had to travel many miles away in search of water to build a home. Because oases are scattered across the desert and are often far apart. Most oases are jealously guarded. Settlers customarily plant palm trees around them to keep the desert sand away from their delicate crops and water. Life is like a journey through the desert in search of an oasis. When you find your own oasis; pitch your tent there.
Reading about the call of the first four disciples, it should rattle the curiosity of any reader why these men had to abandon their profit making businesses to follow Jesus without any resistance or second thought. Obviously, Jesus was not a voodoo doctor that operates with spells and magic. But the manner in which Peter, Andrew, James and John responded to his call “Follow me” can make anyone begin to think Jesus cast a spell on them. But perhaps we can start by asking “Were these men happy as fishermen?” “Were they fulfilled going by the sea everyday to cast a net for some fish?” If we loved what we do, we can’t walk away from it without hesitating.
A similar experience was the call of Matthew (Mt 9:9). As a tax collector, Matthew was rich and comfortable. He was even at his duty post when Jesus came calling. And immediately he heard the call of Jesus, he left everything and followed him. Zacchaeus’ experience was even more startling. Although Jesus did not call him directly; he got up on his own and went after Jesus. And afterwards, made a promise to renounce all he had stolen.
There is always a desert area in our lives. That moment of inner emptiness and discontentment while the rest of the world feels we are happy and fulfilled. That moment we don’t feel connected with what we do or where we are. That moment we feel there is a lacuna to be filled up in our lives. It is a stage in life and a crucial decision point. Some people pass through this stage discovering that oasis that would quench their long thirst and make fertile the desert places of their lives. While some people get stuck in this stage. What makes the difference is our attentiveness to the voice “Follow me.”
And what does this mean? This means that Jesus journeys along with us as we search for our oases in life. This oasis could be a thing, a longing, a person, a profession, a decision or a life that can bring that sense of meaning and fulfilment in our choices and decisions in life. And for us to get to this stage, we will need to be attentive to what God is saying to us at different points in time. Because without God who alone understands the depths of our being, our search for meaning and fulfilment would be in vain.
Ultimately, meaning and fulfilment is found in God. But God is not disconnected from our daily choices and decisions. Because it is through them that we can find meaning and fulfilment in God. What God calls us to do and the choices he guides us to make directs us to finding our oasis in life. God could be saying something to us when we suddenly begin to feel that where we are or what we are doing isn’t enough. And that something more needs to be done. We may even discover that what we think is fine for us is actually not the best for us.
You may love everything about an intending partner in marriage. But suddenly discover there is no mutual connection or chemistry between the both of you. You feel so far apart when you both are together. Your head says ‘yes’ but your heart says ‘no.’ Perhaps God could be saying something to you about your intending decision.
Just like James and John who continued the fishing job of their father to sustain the family’s business; you may be struggling in the job you do and fighting to succeed amidst all odds. But deep within, you know you are not connected with this job. You are just fighting to fulfil the dreams of those you’re trying to please. You are not really living your life but the life you were compelled to choose. God could be asking you to drop that net and go in search of your own oasis.
You are white or black. You feel your skin colour defines your social strata and association. You base your knowledge and your conceptual identity of these accidental differences on the record of history and hearsay. You have lived in this bondage for years. But deep within you, you know this is not right. And just one day, a white or black person shows you a kind attitude or love that surprises you and contradicts what you think of them. God could be calling you to a new life free of discrimination.
Here at St Augustine’s Parish Virginia; our motto reads: “One Big Family.” This is irrespective of colour differences. But whenever we celebrate a joint Mass here in our parish; complaints arise. It is either the English community complaining that the Mass is too long or the Sotho community complaining that the Mass is too short. We debate whether the Mass should be celebrated in English or Sotho. Or whether the homily must be interpreted in Sotho or not. We grumble, move or waggle our legs when we feel the singing is way too long. We sit apart at Mass and at other gatherings outside mass. We are obviously not comfortable, fulfilled and happy as one big family. I feel our parish is still in search of our oasis. And I pray God we find it very soon.
St Paul was emphatic in the second reading of today when he berated the Church in Corinth concerning the dissension among them. Paul warned that the Church of Christ should not be divided since Christ in whose name we were all baptised is not divided. Obviously, this is the gap we find in St Augustine’s parish today. This is the oasis we are searching for here. If we listened to what God is saying to us today; we will fill this gap.
Just like the first four disciples, many of us have a thirst to quench or a gap to fill in our lives. Our satisfaction and fulfilment may depend on our impending decisions regarding these lacks. When we have this inner hunger for an oasis, Jesus is right there by our side calling us to follow him as he leads us to the right direction. If we paid attention to his voice, we will find our oasis and pitch our tent just right there.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, we believe you direct us each day as we search for purpose and meaning in life. Help us to be attentive to your voice so as to be able to find joy and fulfilment in you. Amen.