The Eucharistic liturgy towards which we move during these days presents us with the invitation to listen and respond. There are many voices calling each of us to follow this style or that fashion. We pray for the sense of what voices lead to life and what leads to real living.
We pray to hear more than ideas, slogans, and easy-fixes to life’s demands. We pray to be aware of how the many different voices our own egos can assume to distract us from what is really the “good life”.
It is important to notice in the First Reading as well as the Gospel how quickly the call of God to Jonah and the early followers of Jesus, respond. Jonah hears the invitation to get up, go, and preach repentance to all the people of a large city. He does that immediately.
The people of this city, after only one day of Jonah’s preaching, hear it; they get up, put on garments of penance and change their ways. God hears their response and immediately repents of the threats made through Jonah to the people. We can wonder about what kind of preacher Jonah was and why were the people so easily moved to change and what were they changing from?
Other prophets of the Hebrew Scripture did not experience such radical success. Jeremiah had his hat handed to him and got locked up for his good words. Jonah seems to be a book which models how God can work through human and personal cooperation to bring about order. It is a strange history of God’s way with us humans. Some respond to God easily, but others drag their spiritual feet. Some proclaimers of God’s word have great success and others moan with discouragement. Some proclaimers get knocked off their horses, get up and give their lives to announcing the goodness of God. Other prophets desire to just sit down and die from the burdens of their call. The various forms of call do encourage us in our variety of responses to the personal ways God calls us.
I was reading a book recently about the history and the impact of commercial advertising in the United States. The author estimated that each of us is exposed to about five thousand advertisements during each day. He posed that the only way to be free from them is either sleeping or praying. Jesus comes into the lives of four hard-working, not-sleeping or praying men in today’s Gospel. He comes as a visual advertisement to their buying into the kingdom. Had they been sleeping, Jesus would have had to pass them by again to invite them. This is a most important aspect of His calling.
We might easily say, that had they been asleep they would have missed Him and their lives would have been so different. Sleeping, inattentiveness, unawareness, and personal density are elements of the human experience which are normal and God visits them reverently, patiently, whispering and sometimes shouting to bring us around. Jesus never could pass by, but once; He is the ever-invitation which just keeps awakening, stimulating, advertising God’s existence and love.
As readers of the Gospel, first we are told the message or product being sold and then we hear about the enlisting of the first four salesmen who would be sent out to make the product saleable. They seem so ready, so free to respond. Perhaps they were disenchanted with their humble work. Perhaps the fish weren’t biting or netable that season. Perhaps they had problems with their parents or owners. Whatever the issues were, they jumped up and out and after the Caller.
There seems to be something in the human construction that is “callable” or available or attracted to the beyond, the ultimate; we call that God. Jonah jumped up, even though he had been thrown overboard and left to drown after responding to God’s first call. This quartet of fisherers responded not only from the external call of Jesus, but to something deeper inside their souls. Something in them wanted to be called to mystery, mission, and the more of life. They certainly were not totally aware of the changes which the product would require, but they felt something common to all four and common to us. This common sense might be belonging, identity, or a strong sense of importance. The product, the Gospel reverences all that is appropriately human and calls to that. This is “repentance” or the change from pure self involvement to living under the influence of our imbibing the Product.
Many of us do not know exactly why we are Christians and Catholics. We might have some reasons which satisfy, it seems, those who might ask. In truth, it just seems like a good idea, or scheme of good ideas. It seems suitable or fitting. There is just a something inside us, unexplainable, which wants to respond to His call. Now this response is not always consistent, but His call is always in the air surrounding our boats and nets. We pray to stay awake, attentive, aware of life and aware of that receptiveness or contactability within us. The noise of our boats, the entanglements of our nets can deafen that inner sense, but Jesus, like the good advertiser He is, keeps repeating His divine “1-800 number”. His call is free and if we buy into the product, we will be free as well.
“Look up at the Lord with gladness and smile; your face will never be shamed.” Ps. 34, 6
**reprinted from our Daily Reflection Archives while Fr.Gillick recovers from his recent shoulder surgery.