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THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME A


cappie

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One day Andrew and Simon, James and John get up when it’s still dark, walk down to the sea, and cast nets into the water, anticipating a catch of fish. These men have engaged in this same routine hundreds of times before. This is what they do, for they are fishermen. Amid familiar water and nets and fresh fish,  in the midst of this familiarity, for these four men, a beginning takes place.

Jesus turns up at the waterside.  Today, as he calls them, a beginning takes place. He glances out at these working men with their nets and their catch, and announces in a voice, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Like every other call story in the Bible, this one is an adventure. According to G. K. Chesterton, “An adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose.”

Other rabbis wait for disciples to come to them. This Rabbi Jesus goes out and finds his own. He looks, not among the likely candidates, the best and the brightest, but down at the docks, where he interrupts fishermen at their work.

An adventure is something that comes to us, that chooses us. Discipleship is the great adventure, for the one who comes to us and chooses us is great beyond all measure. We are taken away from predictable lives, plunged into adventure.

 Are these four men, Andrew, Simon, James, and John ready and equipped for the adventure that comes to them, that chooses them, this adventure of discipleship? Jesus at the waterside does not collect resumes; he does not check references. The personal histories of these four do not have the last word about their futures. Christ’s call means a new beginning. He takes a wide-open risk by inviting them. They do the same in their response.

Subsequent events do not demonstrate that they are particularly fit for their call. Simon, who will come to be known as Peter, betrays Jesus in an even more boldfaced way than all the rest. James and John nicknamed the Sons of Thunder, not the most agreeable pair to have around, indulge in dreams about their own enthronement, missing the point completely when Jesus announces that downward mobility is the path to his kingdom. Andrew rarely appears again. Maybe his flaw is playing it safe. Yet Jesus never withdraws his invitation to any of them to share in his adventure, and partners with Jesus is what they finally become.

The call to discipleship of these four fishermen, the beginning their story represents, implies the breakup of their familiar world, the end of their safety. They leave behind old securities: the waterside, the boat, the nets, those days of fishing that so resembled one another, and even old Zebedee, the father of James and John, standing astonished in the boat as his two sons suddenly walk away. The new beginning requires this. We can be sure that some of their family and friends tried to talk sense into them, citing the fact that Jesus was a dreamer with no powerful backing and that his reputation and message were too close to John the Baptist for anyone's comfort or safety. Such arguments failed to sway them. Disciples must walk away into the future. They may be afraid, but not so afraid that their faith does not lead them forward.

The Bible tells us of this beginning for the four fishermen. They are called out from their occupation about which they know a great deal, in order to fish for people, about which they claim no knowledge.

They are to preach the gospel, Paul says in today’s Second Reading, to unite all peoples in the same mind and in the same purpose—in a worldwide kingdom of God.

By their preaching, Isaiah’s promise has been delivered. A world in darkness has seen the light. The yoke of slavery and sin, borne by humanity since time began, has been smashed.

And we are able now, as we sing in today’s Psalm, to dwell in the house of the Lord, to worship Him in the land of the living.

We find ourselves engaged in an adventure, for however strangely, however unjustifiably, Christ comes to us and chooses us, and sends us out to be the next new beginning in the world.

 

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