First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5. 10; Psalm: 40. R. v. 8a. 9a; Second Reading: 1 Cor 7:29-31; Gospel: Mk 1:14-20
LETTING GO TO FOLLOW
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
The arrest of John the Baptist kick-started the ministry of Jesus Christ. When Jesus started his public ministry, he needed disciples to hand on his gospel message. The first four disciples Jesus called were not idle men. These were men with commitments; men who had bills to pay. Biblical scholars noted that Peter and Andrew belonged to a group of fishermen sanctioned by the government with tax payment. They owed the Roman government a lot of money. They left their homes that fateful day to work so as to offset some of their taxes; but that was the day Jesus called. And they left their nets and follow him without worrying how to offset what they owed.
These men also had families. They were all probably married with financial commitments to their families. James and John the sons of Zebedee were not alone at the lake with their father on that day; with them were some hired servants to give them more hands to gather a rich harvest for the day. The initiative of employing more workers sends a message that this family needed more income to pay their bills. And while they were mending their nets ready to get to work with Zebedee their father, Jesus called. And they left everything and followed him.
We can imagine Zebedee standing helplessly and watching his two sons walk away before his eyes. Who will henceforth support him in catering for the family? Who will take over the family business? How will he explain this to their mother? What will he say to their wives? Was Jesus not asking too much? Did Jesus consider the repercussion of whisking these men away just like that? These are the questions we can readily ask when we feel that God is demanding too much from us.
Yes, God can be too demanding. Calling us to follow without compensation. Calling us to give when we have very little. Calling us to forgive when we are deeply hurt. Calling us to love when we are obviously hated. Calling us to restrain when we desire to satisfy our selfish urge. Calling us to truth when lying can save us some shame, pain, and loss. Calling us to faith when believing can be burdensome. Calling us hope and trust when there are no visible prospects.
When God calls us to follow, the things we often leave behind are costly. Things we may hate to let go ordinarily. Sometimes we could be tempted to wonder if God is sensitive to our feelings or if God is selfish; demanding things from us without Okaying the things we want to do ourselves. Why can’t God make things easy? Why must we have to sacrifice a lot to follow him?
Let us pause a little and take some air. We must remember that God does not force us to do anything. The responses of these first four disciples were not marked by duress, reluctance or complaint but a sincere love and willingness to follow. The reason we sometimes feel that God is too demanding is because we have not reached that maturity of faith where we see that the God who made us knows the best for us. We are looking more at the bigness of our needs and not the Bigness of God. And very importantly, we must also understand that life is less about us and more about others. Not that we are not important; but that numerous others are most in need of our love and services.
When we stop thinking that God is too demanding and give from our little; we could be feeding one or more persons. When we overlook the hurts and forgive the wrong; we heal and create a serene atmosphere where love thrives. When we speak the truth and face the pain; we become a model of justice and truth. When we keep the faith when believing becomes difficult; we water the lukewarm faith of the weak and hopeless. Life is not all about us. When the choices we make appears less beneficial to us but adds more value to the lives of others; that choice is worthwhile.
When Peter, Andrew, James and John left their nets to follow Jesus; their mission was to become “fishers of men.” Jesus was not calling them for themselves but for others. And their response to this call won them eternal life. Our mission as Christians is to become ‘fishers of all.’ And we cannot effectively do this when we think more of ourselves and less of others. We must learn sacrifice and detachment. The faith we received today is the result of the sacrifices and detachments of the apostles.
So, as we think of our needs today, think more of the needs of others especially those placed under our care. As a pastor, think more of the spiritual and material needs of the flock of Christ. As a Christian, think of the needs of the Church in her call to evangelise the world. As a parent, think less of your needs and more of the needs of the family. As siblings, make sacrifices for one another. In our different professions/vocations, we can make our services to others a priority. God is not demanding too much from us. God wants to use us as instruments to make our world a better place. And the less we think of ourselves, the more disposed we are to actualise this mission.
When Jonah repented from his refusal to answer God’s call; his preaching to the people of Nineveh yielded fruit. They repented and turned from their evil ways. A single sacrifice on our part can make huge impact in the lives of others. So, when we feel discouraged or reluctant to let go our personal interests in service to others; the good interest of the majority should make us think otherwise.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, as we answer your call daily, teach us detachment and the disposition to make sacrifices for the good of others. Amen.