The Struggle To Be A Disciple

Here is my homily for today (Sunday, January 22, 2012)

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (Click here to see the readings)
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20
January 22, 2012

We see a pretty lofty example of what being a disciple means today.  Jesus is just beginning his public ministry and immediately begins to call disciples.

As this point in Mark’s Gospel, we haven’t heard of Jesus doing any miracles or preaching.   All that we have been told so far in Mark’s Gospel is that he was baptized by John and then tempted by Satan.  As he begins his ministry, John the Baptist has been arrested and Jesus picks up where John leaves off.  Jesus proclaims the same message “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

No new profound message.  Perhaps one might find a sense of urgency with the kingdom of God is at hand.  No more making excuses.  Now is the time for action.

Even if they have that sense of urgency the response of Simon, Andrew, James, and John is nothing short of amazing.  Jesus calls them and they immediately abandon their lives to follow Jesus. 

If an unfamiliar face came to be and told me to “come after them” my first response would probably be “Who are you?” and “Why should I follow you? I don’t even know who you are.”  Simon and the others didn’t respond that way.  They didn’t know who Jesus truly was but they were willing to follow him.

For Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow Jesus so suddenly they must have sensed the divine presence in Jesus.      Why else would they have followed Jesus?

In coming here today, we are showing that we want to follow Jesus.  But it is a struggle.  I don’t know about you but for one thing I struggle to know what Jesus is asking of me.  I love being a priest.  I very much want to serve God and you as his people.  There is a lot of work to do.  What am I supposed to do myself?  What am I supposed to lead others to do?  What is not for me to deal with at all?  Where do God priorities lay?

I wish it seemed so simple as for Simon, Andrew, James, and John who simply abandoned everything and followed Jesus.  Well, it wasn’t all that simple when you read the rest of the story.  The disciples will screw up.  They don’t really fully understand who Jesus is.  Even Peter will deny Jesus three times.

We have to look at the whole story of the disciples.  

The same is true with Jonah in the first reading.  The opening verse sounds like Jonah is the perfect disciple.  God tells him to go to Nineveh and proclaim a message.  Jonah immediately goes and proclaims the message as God directs.  The people of Nineveh immediately repeat and are saved.  Sounds perfect right?  

You need to read the rest of the story. 

This is not the first time God has asked Jonah to preach in Nineveh.  If you read the whole story, the first time God asked Jonah to go, Jonah refused and ran away from God.  Of course, you can’t really run away from God since he is every way.  As the story goes, God sent a storm to punish Jonah.  The sailors throw Jonah overboard to save themselves from the storm.  Along comes a large fish (a whale in the children’s story) that swallows Jonah up.  Jonah spends three days in the belly of the fish before the fish spits him back out.

So when God asks Jonah a second time, Jonah does as God asks.  I guess he got the message when he was in the belly of the fish.

But Jonah hadn’t really changed his mind as to why he didn’t want to go to Nineveh.  He only went out of “fear of the Lord.”  Why didn’t he want to go?  

Nineveh was known as a wicked city of sin.  Jonah thought they deserved to be punished (they did).  Jonah also knew God was merciful and he knew if the Ninevites repented God would not destroy them for their sins.  Jonah wanted to see the Ninevites destroyed.  Of course, they repented and God did not destroy them.  Jonah is actually mad at God for this.  Yet Jonah has also done what God asks of him.

We don’t always follow Jesus (especially on the first try).  We have our own ideas (just like Jonah) of how things should be.  We might even have someone like Jonah did who we don’t want to forgive.

How many times does God have to tell us something before we get it?  For instance, we count on God’s mercy for ourselves.  Do we show mercy and forgiveness to others?  Jesus taught us to pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Do we have someone we need to forgive?  Or what other struggles do we face?  Do we stand up for what Jesus taught us?  Do we stand up for life and good moral conduct?

Discipleship isn’t easy but we come to Jesus seeking the wisdom and courage to be his faithful disciples.


Fr. Jeff

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