Reflection for Sunday – January 22, 2023

Readings: Isaiah 8:23-9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17; Matthew 4:12-23 
Preacher: Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler

Have you ever stopped to marvel at this gospel story? To wonder what it was about this encounter with Jesus that prompted four grown men to drop everything instantly? To leave the security of job and family? And embrace a totally unknown future?

Not normal. At any level. Normal at that time was for folks to search out a rabbi. Not for a rabbi to reach out to invite followers! Jesus, however, took the initiative. “Follow me!” Gradually, immersed in his presence, the disciples will become like Jesus in thought, word and deed.

Coming right after Jesus’ baptism and temptations, this story begins Jesus’ public ministry. Teaching, proclaiming the presence of God, and healing are all of one piece in his ministry. Designed to bring wholeness to individuals and communities. Through the actions of his followers. His disciples. Bringing the light of Christ to all who sit in darkness.

Don’t we all need, indeed long for, that light these days? Our church today sounds much like the church in Corinth, doesn’t it? Factions. Disagreements. As, frequently, also exist in society. Politically, we often seem incapable of agreeing on solutions to pressing problems. Sometimes, even what those problems are! Counselors speak of a pervasive generalized anxiety. Of unrootedness.

Might Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians, then, be worth reflecting on? Might his message intersect with our own call to discipleship?

Paul reminds us that we are brothers and sisters because we have God’s life in us. We are all related! Christ expects his followers to have love and mutual respect for all. Not necessarily unity of sentiment, or of uniformity, but of good will. Commenting on divisions in the church, a woman of deep faith said to me, “Our church needs to have a large tent. I’m not bothered by differences, as long as people’s practices lead them to a deeper relationship with God and commitment to live the Beatitudes.”

Jesus’ preaching has brought folks—including us—into the light by calling for repentance. That means developing a different perception of reality. Learning to think with the mind of Jesus. The same way as the first disciples did: by immersing ourselves in his presence. Jesus, St. John tells us, is the Word of God. Today, Word of God Sunday, invites us to know Jesus better by delving more deeply into the Scriptures as part of our call.

“Follow me!” Jesus said to the fishermen. Ordinary, maybe uneducated, working folks. Jesus calls people as they are. From where they are. Being who they are. Great ability is not required. Rather, great availability is.

Follow me! A soup kitchen volunteer recently told the story of one of their guests requesting eight take-out dinners. Asked about that, the man replied that he needed to feed those in a nearby homeless encampment.

Follow me! Petitions and letter-writing campaigns have freed many innocent people on death row. And exposed inequities in our justice system.

Follow me! Speaking out against “othering” any other member of God’s family. Regardless of race, gender, age, religion, politics or whatever.

Follow me! This country has the capacity and resources to care in a just and equitable manner for those seeking asylum. And still protect our borders. Our choice.

Follow me! The outpouring of all kinds of support to folks suffering from catastrophic weather events. And activists working to ameliorate climate change.

Follow me! The local Sisters of St. Joseph are engaged in a major composting effort. (Food waste is one of the highest contributors to pollution.) They are soon to be followed by the local Sisters of Mercy.

Where do our actions as disciples bring wholeness and light to individuals and communities?

God nurtures in us the talents, gifts and interests that we have and hones them. Helps us to use them to be a part of what God is doing in the world. Following Jesus is really all about responding in love to the God who loves and delights in each one of us. Following Jesus is ultimately all about love, kindness, and joy.

Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler
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