Pastoral Reflections

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

The call the disciples received in our Gospel today to leave the boat and their fishing, is a remarkable one.  Can you imagine what Zebedee said on the day his two sons went home and said they were packing it all up to join Jesus of Nazareth? I think if we were flies on the wall in the house on that day we might even be embarrassed! We are not all called in a similar fashion, but I would like to see our Gospel today as a reminder for all of us to make room for God in our lives and to diligently work for his kingdom. Even though God does not expect us to give up our livelihoods, we are nonetheless called to be authentic active disciples of Christ. 

I have heard some people say that they spent the first half of their lives building up their careers and it was only during the second half of their lives that they made room for God. I will never forget when someone in one of my Bible study groups once remarked feeling that they had wasted much of their life until they had chosen to attend my class.  Although I was sincerely flattered, the reality is that some people receive the grace to appreciate that there is more to life than a career; that we can also benefit from having God in our lives. This faith insight can become a part of anyone’s life at any time, if they are open to it. 

Once I heard a priest say that he had spent ten years after his ordination building up his own personal kingdom, that is, upgrading the parish church, building schools, renovating the rectory and the like and only after that, did he begin to work on building up God’s kingdom. 

There is an excellent Christmas movie entitled the ‘Bishop’s Wife’.  It stars David Niven, Cary Grant and Loretta Young. The story line centers on an Episcopal bishop, who is very busy fundraising for the building his Cathedral church and politicking with the rich.  At one point he compromises his integrity by allowing a wealthy contributor to alter the building plans, which would serve to take away from honoring God to honoring a family member of a very wealthy contributor. Eventually, with the help of an angel, he and that wealthy contributor come to their senses. They realize that all this empire building means nothing in comparison to gathering resources to feed the hungry and care for the needy; Christianity’s true ministry call.

The call in today’s Gospel to leave the boat and the fishing is a reminder to make room for God in our lives every day, to build up God’s kingdom instead of just building up our own personal empires. When we make God our focus, we and those who may depend upon us are the better for it. 

When we follow God’s call, the prophecy in our first reading and in the Gospel are fulfilled in our lives. We enable ourselves and the people that depend upon us to move from dwelling in the land and shadow of death and begin to experience the dawning of light.  (Isaiah 9:1)

When we leave the boat and the fishing every day to make room for God, to build up his kingdom in whatever way we can, then those who live in darkness see a great light, and light dawns on us as well. This thought reminds me of a 1982 article, which appeared in Reader’s Digest about an advertising executive. In spite of her successful career, she felt an emptiness in her life. One morning, during a breakfast meeting with her marketing consultant, she mentioned her struggle with emptiness. “Do you want to fill it?” her colleague asked. “Of Course I do,” she said. He looked at her and replied, “Then start each day with an hour of prayer.”  She looked at him and said, “Don, you’ve got to be kidding. If I tried that, I’d go off my rocker.”  Her friend smiled and said, “That’s exactly what I said 20 years ago.”  Then he said something else that really made her think. He said “You’re trying to fit God into your life, instead you should be trying to make your life revolve around God.” 

The woman left the restaurant in turmoil. Begin each morning with prayer, she thought? Begin each morning with an hour of prayer? Absolutely out of the question! Yet, the next morning she found herself doing exactly that. And she’s been doing it ever since. 

The woman is the first to admit that it has not always been easy. There have been mornings when she was filled with great peace and joy. But there have been other mornings when she was filled with nothing but weariness.  And it was on these weary mornings that she remembered something else that her marketing consultant said.  “There will be times when your mind just won’t go into God’s sanctuary. That’s when you spend your hour in God’s waiting room. 
Still, you’re there, and God appreciates your struggle to stay there.”

Our Gospel reminds us that every day we are called to build up God’s kingdom, not just our own. When we do, to use the words of our first reading, then those who live in darkness will see a great light, the yoke weighing on them, the bar across their shoulders and the rod of their oppressors will be broken. A light will dawn on us also.

God calls each one of us to build his kingdom on earth in a uniquely special way.  An hour of prayer – like the television program “An Hour of Power” – hosted by the late televangelist Robert Schuller, becomes a way to help shape our uniqueness. An hour of prayer becomes a way to start our daily living on God’s track versus our own.  An hour of prayer is a way to bring God into our life and allow him to be at the center of it and then to build our life around him.  An hour of prayer is to begin our day in a spirit of light and minimize wandering off into the darkness of the world. If we desire God to take the helm of our life, there is no better way for that to happen than by inviting him in each morning and keep a prayerful conversation going with him throughout the balance of the day.

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