3rd   Sunday  B        –      A Call to Life

I grew up in a very Catholic family. Priests and nuns visited the house on and off. The Church loomed large in all our minds and I don’t remember hearing  opinions that were contrary to the claims of Catholicism. I found myself after secondary school studying philosophy. One of the professors, Fr John Kelly, often spoke to us about the futility of a life without God and religion. I listened intently as he spoke with personal conviction. I became hooked on becoming a priest and felt secure in my reasons for taking that step. My being a Catholic was a matter of geography, a simple accident of birth. It wasn’t the same as having a personal relationship with God. That relationship, a matter of adult commitment, came later. It is something that involves mind, heart and soul.

Matthew, Mark and Luke show us Jesus calling four fishermen to follow him.  John’s Gospel this Sunday describes Jesus’ call to John’s disciples as a process, a kind of journey from following the Baptist to following Jesus. Our significant relationships are built up over time and through a process of getting to know ourselves and understanding the other person. John’s Gospel invites the reader to embark on a journey of faith and trust during which Jesus would become more deeply understood and accepted as a person rather than a theology. I believe this is the journey of life to which our baptism calls us. At the end of the Gospel John reminds us that ‘These (signs) are recorded that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life through his name’ – John 20, 31.

Life through his name. Divine Life. I came that they might have life! Life – the result of a process of belief and trust in Jesus – is all over John’s Gospel. It’s mysterious, but it was the big reality experienced by the community which created the Fourth Gospel some seventy years after Jesus. Divine life is usually experienced in common with others. What does it look like? Paul tells the Galatians what it looks like: ‘Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control’ – Galatians 5, 22.  And he goes on to say ‘You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires’.  ‘You must be dissatisfied with the way you are now, if you ever want to get to where you are not yet’ – Augustine, Sermon 169.

Many years ago a group of U.S. bishops issued these words of life and hope to the then struggling people of Appalachia. We need to hear them again in a world where God’s Spirit seems to be missing in action: ‘Hopefully the Church might once again be known as a center of the Spirit – a place where poetry dares to speak, where song reigns unchallenged, where art flourishes, where nature is welcome, where little people and little needs come first, where justice speaks loudly, and where in a wilderness of idolatrous destruction the great voice of God still cries out for life’ – THIS LAND IS HOME TO ME, Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Appalachia, 1975.

 

Fr. QQ – 1/13/2021

 

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