What are the things which distract us from answering the call of The Divine?
The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jonah 3: 1-5,10; Corinthians 7: 29-31; Mark 1: 14-20
Can you believe that we are less than a month away from Ash Wednesday Feb 17th? Todays’ readings point to what we should be doing during these next few weeks as we await the season of Lent.
The people of Nineveh who Jonah went to convert had converted before he got there. Jonah who heard the call of the Lord and reluctantly went to Nineveh expecting the Lord to strike down the people because of how they had lived and were living gets there and sees that God had repented and chose not to kill the people. Jonah who had his own agenda in his scared mission or ministry gets angry with the Lord and God reminds him that he is just the instrument of the Lord and not the Lord.
Jonah a person of faith who struggles with God’s call to ministry and then does it remind us of we who feel we are responding to God’s call. We need to be mindful and careful that we are not doing our own will but that of the Lord. It is very easy to have our heads swollen and our egos inflated when we feel that we are special or called by god. Yet the Divine uses us and shows us that it is not about us but about the Divine who we are called to lead people to. As we minister and those in ministry prepare for Ash Wednesday we should be asking our self whose will are we living and whose message are we delivering always mindful that we must be people of prayer rooted in the Lord.
The second reading which Paul writes to the people of Corinth reminds us who are either ministers or not what distractions do we have in our life which keep us from knowing the Divine and responding to the call we have received through our Baptism. Paul reminds the people that the kingdom of God is at hand and we should not be distracted by the lures of the world and our possessions be they people, places or things for we will not be fulfilled. Distractions eventually cause us to sin which is an estrangement from God. Neither I nor Paul are saying that we should all be celibate or childless but what I am saying and what I believe Paul to be saying is all things have their proper time and place and space in our life. No one or no thing can be the center of our life that must be reserved for God. The center of our life where the Lord resides must be the source of our life, love and strength. From the center all else must flow and all others come to dwell.
The gospel portrays what happens when we encounter the Lord in our life. The stage is set with the arrest of John the Baptizer, a priest, and Jesus cousin. Jesus some say was a disciple of John and when he was arrested Jesus came to an awareness of his own ministry. John’s call to repentance was because the kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus call to repentance was that the kingdom was already present in him and in his actions. If people were going to change their lives to become a part of the kingdom then they needed to do a 180 degree turn around. People who heed the call of Christ need a new orientation a new way of looking at things from the perspective of a inner life healed and set free by the encounter of Christ. Once we are touched by Christ we cannot go back to the ways things were or if we try we are more dissatisfied then before we encountered the living Christ.
The repentance that is called for to embrace the kingdom through Jesus is a total change of mind and heart. It is not just saying I am sorry or being sorry for our transgressions it is about change. It is about not having distractions in our life that keep us from loving God and praying. It is about not having distractions in our life that keep us from offering our lives in ministry to others. It is about not having distractions in our life that keep us from loving those God has given us. It is about balance and new life. If I am estranged from God, sinning, then I must change my heart and actions to be one with God.
There are so many times in our life that we allow our past to own us and hold us back and even allow the future to cause us fear. Jesus calls us to be in the present. When Jesus calls us, we like the early disciples are called to leave all our distractions behind and follow trusting that all we need is the present moment and all else is either gone in the past or not yet in the future.
The call to follow Christ and be a disciple, one who brings the kingdom of peace, love and joy to others, is a fulltime ministry. It is a ministry of presence to all those in our lives. It is a ministry of prayer and reflection to assure that we are not just doing our will but that of the Lord. It is a ministry of action which calls us to speak and act on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, the poor, the immigrants, the ill, those who are elderly or have mental illness or those who have become marginalized by their families, churches, communities or society. We like Jesus and Jonah are called to usher in the kingdom of God but first we must identify our distractions and let them go. We must repent and do a total turn around and emptying of our self, so we may be filled with the Spirit of the Indwelling Trinity and be a sign of the kingdom to all people.
Let us pray for each other that we will be given the grace during these next few weeks to identify those things we can work on in Lent to let go of the distractions in our life. Let us pray that we and all Christians during this week of Christian unity will be open to each other and not let the distraction of dogma and tradition stand in the way of how God is revealing to all and through all faiths who God is in our trouble world today. Let us be the voice in the wilderness of distractions calling all to seek the Lord and let go so that God may become all in our world, our lives and our communities.