Monday, January 16, 2012
“As Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea. Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.’ Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:16-18)
January 22, 2012
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 1:14-20 Reading Here
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Words of comfort were delivered to me recently via Facebook when several virtual friends posted what was entitled “23 Adult Truths.” As I read down the list, I must confess instant identification with several of them, as they described so well some of my own behaviors and attitudes. I share with you several of these “truths” that I must claim my own.
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“(1) Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is. (11) You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day. (14) I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call. (18) I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger. (19) How many times is it appropriate to say ‘What?’ before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word that was said?” (“23 Adult Truths,” Original source unknown)
And there’s more. I have another confession to make, one more serious for its countercultural stance (it’s really more an assertion than a confession, but no matter). And I don’t just whisper it; I shout it (so the auricular-challenged won’t have to nod and smile and just pretend to have heard). It’s this – I DON’T WANT TO BE YOUNGER. At 63, I find myself more focused, more accepting of myself and others, and better able to distinguish trash from treasure. Which is not to say 63 doesn’t have its downside. Annoying aches and pains emerge regularly from some mysterious quarter, as do layers of body fat that seem to have no correlation at all to food intake. In short, it’s now the time to work on creating inner beauty – the sculpting of heart and mind into something that approaches resemblance to the Divine Creator.
So what’s this all about as we hear today’s gospel passage? It’s about abandonment. It’s about discerning trash from treasure. It’s about the freedom to respond to the call of Jesus with the same attitude of mind and openness of heart demonstrated by the disciples in today’s gospel. St. Mark writes, “As Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea. Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.’ Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:16-18)
It sounds so simple – like Jesus saying, “Jump!” and Simon and Andrew immediately responding, “How high?” I think, though, that, in the interest of not burdening a good story with too much detail, St. Mark glosses over some of the intermediary drama. I mean, Jesus must somehow have engaged the disciples prior to capturing their minds and hearts. And they must have developed more than a casual rapport with him before they responded to his invitation to join him in fishing for souls. Simon and Andrew surely didn’t just drop their nets on the spot and trail after Jesus. These men had family responsibilities to consider. Fishing provided a livelihood not just for them but for those who depended on them. To drop everything and follow Jesus surely required a lot of thought and an extraordinary faith.
It requires no less of us. Jesus continues to call, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.” And we want to – we really do. We want to drop everything and come after him. But the price! Oh, what a price! Can I just walk away from my security and livelihood? Can I “abandon my nets” like Simon and Andrew?
For most of us, responding to Jesus’ invitation to follow doesn’t require a complete abandonment of lifestyle or livelihood. But it does require abandoning attitudes and mindsets that hold us earthbound, prisoners of comfort and captives to self-indulgence. A prayer attributed to the great St. Teresa of Avila can offer us insight into what such abandonment might mean. Though almost 5 centuries and a formal Decree of Canonization separate us, we can probably recognize our own struggles in hers.
“Lord, Thou knowest better than I myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all; but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
“Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains; they are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cock-sureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.
“Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet, for a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people; and give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”
Spiritual abandonment is sacrifice, surely – but it has distinct rewards. We may find ourselves more focused, more accepting of self and others, and better able to distinguish trash from treasure. We may find ourselves more intent on the work of creating inner beauty – the sculpting of heart and mind into something that that approaches resemblance to the Divine Creator.