Sunday, January 26, 2014

Follow Me - 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A

Deacon John William McMullen

The TV flickers, the computerscreen glows, the cell phone flashes and beeps…. I turn the computer on and I have 50 new messages on Facebook ; 275 new tweets on Twitter ; others want me to connect on Linked-in, follow them on Tumblr, My Space, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest, Vine, Youtube, KiK, Google-Plus and Skype – and whatever else somebody came up with this week.

It’s all too much. The world is too much with us.

There are a million glowing lights flashing for our attention; So many voices calling to us to follow them. But—seriously—how many people, places or things can we follow? And why follow them?

In today’s gospel, four fishermen, two sets of brothers, Andrew and Simon, were doing what they normally did, fishing, casting their nets into the sea; 

and their business partners, James and John, were busy untangling their nets, cleaning them after a long night of fishing. Then Jesus walks along the shoreline, entering into the midst of their busy, hectic lives and simply says: Follow Me.  

These plain and simple common men have no idea what their response will lead to. Yet the men drop their nets and all what they are doing to follow Christ Jesus.

How overjoyed Jesus must have been when these men were willing to trust him, enough to abandon all for him! Even if they did not know all of what would be involved in being "fishers of men." They did not question Him.

Did they recognize that the opportunity to follow Jesus was the greatest adventure ever?

The men immediately left everything behind in order to gain life and light. The disciples are the people who have seen the great light.

First and foremost, they abandoned their own wills for the will of Christ.

What keeps us from following Christ?

In our second reading today from Paul, we learn that there were rivalries and divisions in the Church at Corinth. Among the members of the church, some were too attached to particular priests or ministers, almost to the point where their loyalty was to these certain men rather than Christ.

We have seen this all too often in the Church: one group has all the answers, their theology is more pure than those other people over there, or those people that go to that other Mass. Oh, the divisions can be very ugly.

“You know, things have never been the same since Fr. ____ left here,” or “Fr.______ wouldn’t have done things this way; Deacon _____ was a better deacon than that one they got here now. Fr. ____ was the best pastor _____ ever had. No, Fr._____was the best. Why did Fr. ____have to leave? 

Okay, you get the picture.

The moment we begin to follow anyone else besides Jesus, we begin to divide and break apart.

Pope Francis spoke about today’s second reading this week, exclaiming: “Christ was certainly not divided. Christ’s name creates communion and unity, not division! He has come to make communion among us, not to divide us."

And so from all that divides us, Repent!

It was Jesus’ first word in today's gospel! Repent.

It’s a message we all need to hear.

Without the light of Christ, we wander around in the dark arguing with each other without direction.

“The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

Discipleship is FOLLOWING Christ. Putting no thing and no other person before Jesus Christ.

Christ is calling.

He seeks friendship with us, and he finds us in our boats, working hard, trying to get the knots out of our nets.

He calls to us through the Scriptures, through the Church, and through our neighbor, and in the depths of our conscience.

Will we leave behind our excessive attachment to whatever is keeping us from following Christ fully and intentionally?

Drop everything, especially the tangled nets of despair and fear, anger and jealousy; the nets of power and possessions, and the constant seeking for pleasure and popularity, and anything else that prevents us from hearing and obeying the call of our Lord.

Following Christ cannot be like a hobby, a two times a month activity, maybe. Following Christ must come before all else, all other things and all other lights.

Jesus begins his Church one follower at a time. He walked about calling his followers, meeting them in person, calling them by name; and Jesus comes to us today in much the same way, walking along the shores of our lives.

We are called to be fishers of men and women, catching people in the nets of the kingdom. 

We are called to fish our neighbors out of the stormy seas of chaos and watery whirlpools of sin.

And we do this by meeting others where they are calling them by name.

Yet to properly fish for Jesus we must be willing to spend time with the Lord in personal prayer. How can we share Christ if we do not know him, or if we aren’t spending time with him ourselves?

Just as Jesus encountered two sets of brothers, Andrew and Simon Peter and James and John, then sent them out two by two, he encounters us today as two parishes, Christ the King and Holy Spirit, and he calls us, and sends us forth.

This is an exciting time for Holy Spirit and Christ the King as we pray and work for our parish. 

And, like the disciples, if we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, then we won’t have time to argue about trivial matters; we won’t get trapped in the nets of rivalry. Instead, we will roll up our sleeves and join our brothers and sisters in Christ, and get down to the business of the Kingdom of God.

As one parishioner told me this week, “I have come to see that it’s not about me anymore. It’s about us moving forward” in faith to follow Christ our King empowered by the Holy Spirit.”

May we be as eagerly responsive to the call of Christ as were the first disciples.