rise up and follow Thee

Jan 21, 2012

Take a moment to reflect on the three scripture passages below taken from today’s readings. What do you notice?  What seems to be the emphasis?

First Reading: (Jonah 3:1)
The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying: “Set out…  

Psalm 25
Teach me your ways, O Lord,
Your ways, O LORD, 
make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me…

Gospel   (Mark 1:14-20)   “Come after me… Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.”

It is inevitable that our reading and understanding of the scriptures is influenced by the circumstances of our own personal present reality.

As I ponder these readings I feel a personal challenge and encouragement from God.  

In the midst of these days of leaving Our Lady of Victories and St. Joseph’s, and preparing to arrive in the three parishes of North Canterbury, the call to “set out”, to “come after me”, abandoning the security of the nets and the comfort of the boats, is for me a vivid and timely reminder of the heart of the life of the disciple of Jesus.  

It is commonly thought that the call of God is ‘at odds’ with human longing. This perception reveals a misunderstanding. God’s ‘will’ for each of us is simply a reflection, a communication,  of our own deepest desire. 

When we do set out on the paths that God has revealed, we find that we are truly ourselves. When we abandon the security of ‘nets’ and ‘boats’, we embark on a divine adventure that fulfills every human need. Finally I feel as though I am truly living. 

Too often we dream of a life that is little more than a projection of the fears and limited vision of a secular society. In this existence we settle for whatever joy and meaning a good career, material possessions and human relationships can provide. 

But, even when surrounded by an abundance of these gifts of God, we realise we are still yearning for something greater. To follow this path ‘beyond’, is the adventure of faith.  No human existence can become a life without this adventure.

To use a human analogy: when we receive a generous gift from a friend, or even from an aquaintance, the thoughtfulness of the gift directs the healthy adult to focus not on the gift, but on the giver. Yes we may appreciate and delight in the gift for what it is, but the gift (however wonderful in itself), is but a sign of the real gift that is the relationship between the receiver and the giver.

A child does not have this awareness. Children grasp at the gift and run off to play with it. Usually they have to be reminded by the parent to thank the giver, and then the child will quickly appease the parent with a ‘thank you’ before becoming fully absorbed once again in the gift. 

This child-like behaviour is not distressing for the giver. How wonderful to have chosen and given a gift that delights a child. But how much more maturely human is the response when the teenager, on receiving the gift, turns in appreciation directly to the giver.

In the next couple of weeks the 2012 work and school year commences. Sadly, this year, you and I will too often shrink in fear at the sound of the divine voice. Our narrow minds and secular thinking has programmed us to childishly grasp and consume the gifts of God and ignore the generous and loving giver.

And while this resistance is the stuff of all ultimate human crises, the cause of much human suffering and all human stress, God continues to reach out to us as in the divine call to Jonah: “set out”. We continue to pray: ‘teach us your ways O Lord’. And God responds, as Jesus to the first followers: “come after me”.

Let us pray this weekend that, every moment of the year ahead, we will be alert to this call of Jesus to the first disciples as His call today to us. Such sensitivity is the guaranteed (because it is God-given) method to human health and happiness.

May the words of the wonderful quaker hymn be our prayer: “Let us, like them, without a word, rise up and follow Thee.”

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