Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jan. 22, 2017: 3rd Sunday Ordinary A

Jan. 22, 2017: 3rd Sunday Ordinary A

Click to hear Audio Homily
When someone texts you or calls you on the cell, how quick are you to respond? It depends on who is trying to reach you, what you’re doing, or whether you’re in a meeting, in the middle of a meal with someone, or praying. A 19-yr. old Italian college student, Stefano Cabizza, was worried about the economy and finding a job after graduation. So he did what most Catholics would not dare do, write the Pope. He wrote a letter a to Pope Francis in which he described his life and expressed hopes that he would find a job at the end of his studies. So he was stunned to have the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics phone him up for a chat. Stefano said, “I couldn’t believe it. Pope and I laughed and joked for about eight minutes.” Pope told Stefano to use informal title of the Pope rather than a formal one. Pope said to him, “Do you think the Apostles would have used the polite form with Christ? Would they have called him ‘your excellency’? They were friends, just as you and I are now, and with friends I’m accustomed to using informal title.” Stefano said, “He asked me to pray for him and then he gave me a blessing.” Stefano was surprised that Pope Francis would care enough about an ordinary student among tens of thousands, to call him by name and to reassure him. We have to wonder, is this also how Jesus knows and calls each of us?

Just imagine how Peter and Andrew felt when out of the blue a man approached them and called out to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." They had just cast their nets into the sea when this unfamiliar man called upon them. Perhaps Andrew recognized the man as the rabbi called Jesus whom he met with John the Baptist. Something must have stirred inside both Andrew and his brother Peter. They left the nets in the ocean and at once followed him. A similar experience happened to James and his brother John. They were mending broken nets in the boat when the rabbi motioned them to join him. Perhaps they saw Andrew and Peter with the rabbi. Something also stirred in them to promptly leave their nets and even their own father to follow Jesus.

Do you ever have one of those days when you have planned everything out to the hour, and then either someone or something unexpected changes your schedule? How would you feel? Irritated, resentful, or let’s go with the flow? The Book of Proverbs gives us a nugget of wisdom regarding this: "The human heart plans the way, but the LORD directs the steps." (Proverbs 16:9) Prophet Isaiah also reveals that God’s ways is not our ways, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)

At any moment of the day, the Holy Spirit prompts us with a mission from the Heavenly Father. It may not be something that we scheduled or would prefer to do. A disciple of Jesus in a sense must be ready to surrender each and every moment, just as Blessed Mother did when she said, “Let it be done to me, according to your word.” All of us prize our freedom, the ability to choose what we want and when we want it to happen. Yet there is a greater way to experience freedom--freely choosing to do God’s will when He wills it.

In 1975 after the city of Saigon fell to the Communist Vietnamese Army, then-Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan was put in jail by the Communists for 13 years, of which nine of those years he spent in solitary confinement. One night, alone in the prison cell,  Bishop Nguyen was tormented by a thought that he was uselessly wasting away. He thought, “I’m forty-eight years old, in the prime of my life, and here I was isolated, inactive, and far from my people.” One night, he heard a voice from the depths of his heart advising him:
"Why torment yourself? You must discern between God and the works of God. Everything you have done and desire to continue to do, pastoral visits, training seminarians, sisters and members of religious orders, building schools, evangelizing non-Christians. All of that is excellent work, the work of God but it is not God! If God wants you to give it all up and put the work into his hands, do it and trust him. God will do the work infinitely better than you; he will entrust the work to others who are more able than you. You have only to choose God and not the works of God!"

If we are to be ready to respond to the call from Jesus, as did Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Bishop Nguyen, we should be ready at every moment of the day. We may not be asked to leave behind our profession, livelihood, or all of our possessions. Rather, we may be asked to welcome the interruption in the plans of today as an opportunity to serve Jesus. Perhaps it can be a smile, a kind word, or a short prayer for a person who interrupted our plans. For even a serious change in our plans, such as an illness or the loss of a loved one, we have to be ready to entrust it in God’s hands and live day-to-day with courage that He is guiding every step. Trusting in God should not be an extraordinary response for us; trusting God should be an ordinary response as a Christian. Our Lord reminds us that perfect love casts out fear. The love and care that Our Lord has for us is as personal and compassionate as the phone call the young man received from Pope Francis. Let us go about this week recognizing interruptions as opportunities to love and serve Our Lord.