We can not admire, buy into, follow or eventually love some thing
or some one unless we grow to know that thing or person. We are invited to
get close to, familiar with and learn about the person of Jesus beginning
with His call to His first intimate friends.
We pray in preparation for the liturgy by reflecting on God’s constant communicating
with us. God uses everything and everyone around us to give us intimations
of who we are and Who God is. God is walking constantly along our shores
of awareness to attract us to the Holy Path of peace and justice. We are
the people who have been in the dark and God sends the Light to help us make
sense of our lives and our selves. We pray for the grace to be more attentive
to Jesus’ invitations.
In today’s First Reading, Isaiah specifies a particular piece of territory
which had been “degraded” or exiled. They have been in darkness and distress.
What we hear is one of those Divine turn-abouts. This land of Zebulun and
Naphtali way beyond the usual territories of Israel too will now be
graced by the God of Israel.
The “land of the Gentiles” is now to rejoice also for God is to shine upon
them and bring them freedom. The Light of God’s love is beginning to spread
throughout the whole of God’s creation.
The Gospel is Matthew’s picturing Jesus as the “Great Light” about Whom Isaiah
had foretold. Matthew then presents a picture of the Teacher beginning to
select His students. The word “disciple” means “One who is learning.” Jesus
is on the earth and His first learners are doing their old things, preparing
to catch fish. When they hear His call to come after Him, they leave everything
old to follow this New teacher. Their eager response will be diminished by
and by, because the New will become too much, too unusual, too deep a call
to change or repent.
Here at our university we welcome “older” or “advanced” students into all
levels of course work. My own brother received his Doctorate last May in
Philosophy at the advanced age of sixty-two. I asked him why he was studying
all those years while continuing his lawyering. He responded that he hadn’t
had an original thought in twenty years and he needed something to stay alive.
Not easy to teach an old lawyer new tricks. It is all about staying alive.
We who are older find it a bit more difficult to stand up and get out of
a fishing boat after our being out on the lake for a few hours. Knees and
backs announce their discomfort at this new arrangement. Age means we have
been learning for a long time and growing comfortable with our positions.
We really do not enjoy those things which rearrange our categories or activities.
Repenting is a rearranging of kingdoms. Jesus comes along the shore between
earth, (order) and the sea, (chaos). He meets four men of the sea and invites
them to follow Him on the earth and in their earthliness. We can only imagine
that these four have no idea how their personal furniture is going to be
reconfigured. We will be watching their being schooled as we turn the pages
of their textbook according to Matthew during the “Ordinary Times” of this
Liturgical Year. They and we will get our first instructions in next-week’s
Gospel. Enough for today is the call to each of us that we be available to
our being changed by our learning about this Jesus.
To learn about Him we have to first be aware of our present positions. What
are the dimensions of our boats? We could be hoping that Jesus merely confirms
us in our present ways. That would be good, we think, but Jesus wants His
Kingdom to come and the dimensions of that realm are larger than the sides
of our boats. He has “original” ideas which will graduate us out and up.
In reading or listening to His call, His teachings, if we feel comfortable
and affirmed with all our present thoughts and ways, then please send me
your Gospel, because the one I read tightens my shoes, stretches my back,
aches my knees and yet enlivens my mind to learn and my heart to live more
lovingly. With Jesus, there is a difference between being comforted and being
comfortable. He doesn’t seem to want us to stay in our boats, but walk the
earth with Him and His sisters and brothers and that is how we come to life
and stay alive.
“Look up at the Lord with gladness and smile; your face will never be ashamed.” Ps. 34