jtemplate.ru - free extensions for joomla

January 21, 2018 - The Kingdom of God is at Hand

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

(Fr. Satish is in India visiting his parents. This homily was preached by him three years back. The homily is still relevant for today as we reflect Christ's call in the Gospel).

Each time I leave my home in India to return back to my ministry in Dayton, the  last day, the last hours, and the last moments are even intensely emotional. Just before I leave, mom and dad always pray over me and give me their blessings. As they blessed me this time I realized how much it hurt all of us to part from each other. For some reason, my mother always surprises me with her prayers over me. She prayed something like, “Loving God, bless the people of my son’s parish whom you have called him to serve. Bless them and let them know your love through him.” This is what is surprising about my mother – she is always able to rise above the immediate situation and find the bigger meaning and purpose. She did this when I left home at 16 and she does it even now when I am 48. In her simple prayer, my mother, had lifted us all from our gloom and given meaning. We still wept as we parted but there was hope.

As I looked at today’s readings, I realize how important it is for us to both discover and stay connected the eternal meaning of our lives. I think that this is precisely what my mother was doing as we prayed. I think that is what Jesus was doing as he began his ministry and called more disciples to join him. Jesus was presenting his mission statement, setting his goal, connecting his earthly ministry with the eternal plan of God as he proclaimed, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Ushering the Kingdom of God – that is what gave Jesus’ earthly life meaning and purpose. And just like he called his first disciples to join in his cause, he is not calling us.

Whom does God call? God calls anybody who is willing to hear. In last week’s first reading Samuel was barely twelve years old. Jonah in today’s reading was initially a rebel. If God instructed him to go right, Jonah’s instinct was to go left. Yet God called him. In today’s gospel reading, Andrew, Peter, James and John were ordinary folks going about their routine and mundane lives. Jesus did not go into the Temple and call the High Priest and members of the Sanhedrin. He did not even call the Pharisees. He called ordinary folks living ordinary lives. How many of us feel ordinary? How many of us get tired of our ordinary lives, our same mundane routines and our sometimes robotic existence? I can certainly connect with the rebellious Jonah and the ordinary disciples. I am just another parish priest. And for you, there is work, children, marriage, babies, school, homework, eat, sleep, wake up and then do the same thing all over again the next day. What is the good news is all of this? The good news is this – that it is people like us that Jesus called. Not one person here today is unworthy of the call of God.

Why does Jesus call? There are two reasons for which Jesus calls. The first reason is a broader reason; Jesus calls because God loves people like us! Remember that famous verse from John – “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son?” God would love every person to know that he or she is loved. Not everybody may feel that way, but, this indeed is true that God sent us Jesus because God loved us. And then there is the more particular reason. Jesus calls us because he want us to join hands with him in his cause. And what is his cause? To let earth be as beautiful and heaven. “The kingdom of God is at hand,” is what Jesus proclaimed. And then he called those who would hear to join hands with him. He taught them to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Finally he invited them to follow his path of peace, of non-violence, of righteousness, of faith and hope in God, of selflessness, generosity, kindness, compassion and love. He gave his all to make our beautiful earth and beautiful as heaven.

Answering the Call. How can we work for the kingdom of God that Jesus came to build? I want to take you back to my mother who prayed over me. She lifted her vision and saw the greater cause in us having to part ways. I have much to learn from my mother. Like her, to build the kingdom of God is have Jesus’ vision. We can only join hands with Jesus if we can see with God’s eyes. What does God see? When God looks at the world does not God first and foremost see God’s children rather than black, white and brown, gay, straight, married or divorced? Does it make God happy to see us kill each other in God’s name and in the name of religion? When God sees all the violence that we carry out in the name of patriotism, religion, race or wealth, is that how God created us? Is heaven like earth? Rather, Jesus is asking you and me to join hands with him to make earth like heaven. May be we need to “repent” for our short-sightedness. May be we need to “believe in the gospel” more radically. Today, God is asking us to broaden our horizon and focus on the kingdom of God instead of our petty differences. God is calling us to join hands with Jesus, to adopt his vision, to follow him. He is calling us to be his disciples! He is calling us to make earth like heaven. 

- Fr. Satish Joseph