Where do we stand as God calls us?
Posted: Wed, 20 Jan 2021 11:33
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB reflects on the Gospel for Sunday of the Word of God, 3rd Sunday of Year B: Mark 1: 14-20. Image: bernadette Lopez via Qumran2.net.
Last week, we saw how the evangelist John dealt with the call of Andrew and Peter. On this Sunday of the Word we are introduced to Mark's Gospel and his version of the call of these early followers. I like to see the evangelist Mark as a person who is in a hurry to spread the good news. He is not interested in birth and beautiful stories of shepherds, kings and cribs—he wants to present the 'good news' of Jesus on mission. He views Jesus in the context of John's message of repentance. We therefore see Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee, meeting up with the local fishermen. These are hard workers, not afraid of hard work and used to long nights of fishing, often catching nothing but a cold. Jesus comes to them and makes the simple invitation to 'follow me!'; their response is amazing: 'at once they left their nets and followed him!' There is a sense of urgency in the Gospel today—these men were prepared to give up families, friends and job security in order to follow the Lord. Imagine if a wandering preacher came into your place of work tomorrow, could you drop everything and follow them? I think you will probably agree that the chances of your taking up such an outrageous invitation are fairly remote. But what is the Lord asking of you today? Are you prepared to respond?
Our Gospel today invites us to share this urgency with those we encounter during this week. As Christians we share ministry and we need to see where we stand as God calls us. I firmly believe that God is calling people in your congregation to ministry. Are you truly ready to support the work of vocations or do you expect others to step up to the plate? I remember visiting a family some years ago to discuss their son's request to begin a dialogue about becoming a priest; both parents looked crestfallen as the mother said to me, "we were hoping for something much better for him like a barrister!" While it put me firmly in my place, I was able to reflect on the need for all of us to take responsibility for vocations to the priesthood and religious life with the urgency and respect that Jesus shows in our gospel today. The old cliche is true: 'your priest is somebody's son, could your son be somebody's priest!' What will YOU do to promote vocations; yes we need to continue praying but yet another seminary, Wonersh, will close down in September; many UK based religious orders have not had a novice for years. What is the Holy Spirit telling us? Do we need to think outside the vocational box? Should we be asking deeper questions about ministry? God is asking great things from us, perhaps even asking us to take new and challenging risks. Be open to change—please!
Our saint of today, Francis de Sales, had to fight family opposition in his road to priesthood. His determination and vision helped him through the pain of division and even the extremes of Reformation. He was noted for his gentleness and care in the midst of hurt and pain; he became the role model for Don Bosco as he began his ministry, and we were called SALESIAN in his memory—Don Bosco wanted his followers to show that same gentleness and care for the young. Francis de Sales saw that we all have the potential to do amazing things to spread the gospel message on a daily basis:
Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew.
St Francis de Sales
Pope Francis set up this 'Sunday of the Word' just over a year ago to help us appreciate the richness and beauty of scripture; sadly the fallout from COVID-19 has meant that the essential catechesis for the 'Year of the Word' has had to be put to one side. My earnest prayer is that we do not ignore what the Pope is asking of us. In Luke's post-resurrection encounter, we see Jesus with his disciples as 'he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures' (Lk. 24: 45). We are asked to concentrate today on the Liturgy of the Word—from the start of the mass to the offertory. It is a celebration of the richness that we have in scripture and how we can find God in the beauty of the Bible. As we begin to establish a new pattern for parish life, we should reflect on ways we can promote a more prayerful reflection of scripture with all age groups.
We need to celebrate today the gift to your community of all those who proclaim God's Word in our Church. This is the feast for Lectors, Deacons and Preachers—make sure that at today's liturgy you can acknowledge their service—perhaps with a simple liturgy of dedication to their ministry. Just as the priest is called to 'break the bread' of Eucharist, so they 'break' the Word open for us. I would be as bold as to suggest that not every celebration needs to include a Eucharist: we need to be creative in our ways of using liturgy—a service of the Word could be more helpful. The rosary devotion lends itself to scriptural reflections as we pray. In some ecumenical contexts, for example, this sacrament of unity can actually be a cause of disunity, whereas we can share the Bible easily. School assemblies can be enlivened by the way we use the Word—I strongly recommend that you use the 'Wednesday Word' resource produced by the Wednesday Word Trust please see www.wednesdayword.org
As we move through 2021, perhaps we can catch up on what the 'Year of the Word' was asking of us. Pope Francis reminds us:
I greatly desire that God's word be increasingly celebrated, known and disseminated, so that the mystery of love streaming from this font of mercy may be ever better understood.
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB