January 10, 2022
by Joan Blandin Howard
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the First Week In Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 305

Samuel 1:1-8
Psalm 116:12-13, 14-17, 18-19
Mark 1:14-20

Celebrating Christmas

The Aggressive Lover

Not on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, but on a pebbly beach of a small cove on the coast of Massachusetts. Listening to the rhythm of tide sweeping in and gargling out through the pebbles, I watch, captivated by the life of fishermen.  I imagine the adventure of the fishing boats setting out to sea as the sun rises.  I imagine overhearing the morning chatter of greetings and friendly ribbing of longtime friends as they gather their gear.

“Who brought the donuts?  Coffee?  What about Sally’s delicious cinnamon buns?!
Bets on – today the “Sally Jane” brings in the heavy load! “Dorothy Anne” nets that pesky elusive tuna! Last boat in buys the first round!!”

Alongside their fathers, these men learned the joys, art, challenges and dangers of being a fisherman.  These fishermen know the weather can turn on a dime.  They know unexpected high winds and rough seas can endanger their lives.  Still, these fishermen are wedded to the sea.

One ordinary day, unexpectedly, Jesus showed up. Possibly these fishermen had heard of Jesus, maybe not.  Jesus “…said to them, “Follow me... And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” When Jesus called, they “immediately…left their father…and the nets they were mending.” Why would they respond “immediately,” apparently without a question? What was the urgency?  Fishermen was who they were, not just what they did. They were wedded to the sea. Why leave the familiar for the unknown?  

Imagine:  young men looking for something new, an adventure? They wanted to see “the world”?  Fishing was dangerous. Was Jesus serious, or was this playful taunting? Or, maybe there was something deep stirring in their hearts. Something that they could not name, but was real and could not be ignored or denied.  As Paul would later confess, he had no choice. Did they feel they had no choice but to immediately pick up and leave their boats, their nets, their livelihoods, their families and follow Jesus?

Why did Jesus “call(ed)” these particular men? Why fishermen?  Maybe because fishermen were used to venturing into the unknown. Used to being caught off-guard and vulnerable. Maybe that was the reason – Jesus knew that in their vulnerability was their strength. Jesus knew they were the right ones. They were ready. Many whom Jesus called were not free to answer his call. Fear of the unknown, of letting go, outweighed any glimmer of desire to follow Jesus. They were not yet ready.  Not yet.

Am I aware of Jesus calling me? Occasionally, repeatedly maybe even aggressively, urgently? Do I take it seriously? Am I ready?  What does Jesus see in me that I don’t see in myself?  A litany - I’m sinful, unworthy, fearful, vulnerable and…. At times unable to love and be loved. Sure, I can also be kind, compassionate and loving.  All of this, yet also longing for, searching for and desiring I know not what. “Exactly!You are all of that and more - precisely why I love you. Why I call you. You will hear me as the tide gargles through the shore’s pebbles, in the dark, the dawn, in your joys and sorrows.”  I listen. I hear. “…, I love you, do not be afraid, follow me.” Where have you heard Jesus calling you? Listen! Maybe it is less about me and more about Jesus, more about God – the Aggressive Lover.

The Goodnews:  Jesus is calling me. Lord, that I may be (immediately) ready.

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