Sunday, 26 January 2014

The People Living in Darkness have Seen a Great Light

Matthew 4:12-23

What is it to encounter Jesus? What effect does it have on our lives? What does he calls us to do? Do we associate our closeness to God with the effect as Isaiah prophesies, that “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone”?

When reading the Gospel I wondered how the people at the time experienced the coming of Jesus. Was it at all clear that Jesus is the great light that came into their lives. Capernaum was a wealthy town. It had a big fishing business, a luxurious trade. In a busy town with tradesmen going to and fro, the presence of Jesus could have been perifial in the bigger picture. Especially if there wasn't as big group of followers as yet.

They might have heard of the preacher, talking in the synagogue on Sundays, possible some miracles associated with Him, but did it make a difference during the week? Maybe they thought the light was the wealth and business that had come their way, which had reduced the poverty, and allowed a somewhat more comfortable life.

Maybe the world doesn’t change that much, and history repeats itself. Only recently here in Ireland the Celtic Tiger seemed to be the light for so many people. While the tiger was prowling around, a lot of people though the sky was the limit. But such lights do not last.

Or the literal artificial light of computer screens and mobile phones. People being up all night being engaged in their virtual world, another light that seems to enlighten our lives, but a light which ultimately too does not provide the fulfilment we as humans seek and eventually fails. So how do we come to know the light, how to we recognise what is the true light, how do we find Jesus and come to the depth of spiritual nourishment we all desire and need?

The story of the calling of the Apostles is one of those stories to reflect upon and to help us discover. It gives us some insight in the way the encounter with Jesus can happen. The Gospel today might suggest an impulsive action by the Apostles; that at the drop of a hat they just left everything and followed Jesus. This can sound very far removed from your or my experience of encountering Jesus. For most people it isn’t a lightening flash on a dark night; no instead it is more like the slow brightening of sky at a the beautiful sunrise. The slow discovery and enlightenment which happens when we start to seek out and search for Jesus in our own personal lives. When He step-by-step leads us to open in front of us the beautiful mosaic of which our world is created. Often it will involve a bit of a search, sometimes even without knowing what to search for, and often it requires some patience.

The four apostles didn’t encounter Jesus for the first time, there at the lake of Galilee either. Just earlier in the Gospel we read that Jesus had already cured Peter's mother in Law, so He was acquainted with Peter’s family. We also know that at least Andrew, Peter and John had already encountered the Lord at the river Jordan. It was them who went out to search in the first place, to see what was happening there, and subsequently were drawn to Jesus when John the Baptist pointed Him out.

For most people, the relation with Jesus is something that develops. A call to follow Him, be it in a direct service as a religious or priest, or be it in any other vocation; is not an impulsive reaction, but the result of a readiness to respond to the call of our Lord.

The four Apostles kept leading normal lives. They were actually quite wealthy men. Luke mentioned that Peter was James’s and John's business partner, and Mark tells us that James and John left their father with the people they employed, also suggesting a fishing business. But in it was the aspect of “the being ready”, to be attentive, and to allow ones self to follow the Lords call whatever He asks. It is to be attentive to the sound of His voice in our lives.

Through a slow growth in our closeness to Jesus, a real friendship which can develop over time, we become attentive to the way He is guiding us. We usually need to keep doing whatever way our lives lead us, as Peter and Andrew are working and catching fish, but we need to be attentive to the Lord’s voice too, maybe as James and John are more contemplative mending the nets and preparing for what is to come. We live in the world, and participate, but are also attentive to The Lord. Both are needed in life, and both allow us to be ready to respond when the Lord asks us to follow Him.

What is it to encounter Jesus? What does it mean to be called? These are questions each of us need to ask ourselves in the depth of our souls. To know what God is calling us to do is something that will be enlightened if we engage in the patient dialogue He is always inviting us to, to listen to the whispering voice in our hearts.

God is not often shouting at us, but He is always there with us to guide us in a more intimate, subtle way! He is the light shining, trying to enlighten our darkness, waiting for us to stop hiding, and step out into the light which He radiates and wants to share with us, enlightening the path of our lives.

(Saint Saviour's Dublin, 26-01-2014)

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