Each Sunday we have selected Scripture passages to consider. This Sunday is no different in what we read in the Book of Job, the particular writing from St. Paul, and the Gospel words from St. Mark. The thing is, when selected and targeted passages are presented the question becomes begged, what about the rest of the experience?
Such a focused context may be, as today's passages are for me, relatively uninspired. In the case of Job : as terrible and miserable as he is in this passage, he eventually is restored and God smiles on his remaining 140 years of life. St. Paul likes to say that he did not get paid for his work, but we all are aware that if not for paying the apostles and early church ministers the community would have become just fragmented groups in search of leadership. And these days, in our community we like to point out that St. Mark includes Peter's Mother-in-law in the care circle of the Teacher.
So, what is there to today's passages? I find on second search an interesting little phrase which goes "Let us move on to the neighboring villages..." Jesus could have taken his Big Idea of salvation to the academic and power centers of the empire. That was not the plan. Jesus recognized that faith grows from the ground up. The local community, then as now, is the resource, the fundamental source of faith, love, support and challenge for each believer.
These days the disenchantment with bigness is palpable. Our country is baling out the largest banks and corporations due to the irresponsibility and greed of the supposed smartest people in the land. We can expect that looking local will gain favor in our lives and our neighbors' lives.
Wendell Berry, in a recent collection of essays, speaks of the "Way of Ignorance." He presents the disregard and disrespect that characterizes the biggest and most concentrated organizations and corporations in our country. Because Wendell is a good ol' boy from Kentucky, a farmer and a poet he has a love for the land, and even more targeted : his land. The way of ignorance is the path of treating land as an industrial commodity and depleting it in the process.
Wendell speaks of himself as an agrarian, which means a person who regards his local life as the center of his personal and social responsibility. The agrarian will not inflict the land with chemicals and procedures that have the long-term effect of creating wastelands.
It is the local look, the neighboring towns that hold the promise for life supports and the growth of faith. Wendell has heard Jesus' invitation to spread the word to local places and communities. This is the look that we are invited to become inspired by in this presentation of the Gospel today.
JesusPeter said to Jesus, "Leave me, I beg you, I am a sinner." -Luke 5:8
In these first Sundays of Ordinary Time in the liturgical year we find ourselves in a "Back-to-Basics" mode of Christian living. Several Sundays ago we heard again teaching about who God is and lately we heard Jesus, the Word who became human, speak of the very personal relationship he (and we) have with God.
Today we hear of Discipleship. Who Jesus calls and how, and why, he does it. The prophet Isaiah writes of his dramatic call to serve God that includes kissing a burning piece of charcoal. We may not understand such dramatic experiences and we may not totally understand God, but we certainly understand what a personal relationship is. Discipleship is a personal relationship with Christ, and through Christ to our creator God.
Just as in all personal relationships ours with Christ entails both attraction and rejection. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the World War II German pastor and martyr, wrote a book called, "The Cost of Discipleship." In it he reminds us that the direct, immediate, and ultimate relationship with Jesus is what matters in our life of faith. We are to be ready to respond to his Call, his demand, and his love. Our faith's focus is on Jesus and no institution, no other demands may come between us.
This one relationship finds a place in all of our other relationships : as spouse, lover, parent, friend. This understanding did not stop Dietrich from being engaged at the time of his execution. He wrote warmly and endearingly to his fiance, Maria von Wedemeyer. They planned a lifetime of love and happiness especially as believers and persons in a relationship with Christ. Dietrich's message to all disciples is to obey the Call, let Jesus show the way, live in full relationships with family and friends. But always, always follow the One who shows us the Way.
Discipleship, as a personal relationship, is also about rejection. Not one of us can sustain a relationship without experiencing rejection : either our own or from someone else. And so it is in relationship with Jesus. In today's Gospel, Peter experiences the power of Jesus as the Christ who commands creation : even the amount of fish to be caught in the Sea of Galilee. And because of this experience Peter confesses his sinfulness and begs Jesus to go away.
What is going on here is something Peter himself probably didn't realize fully at the time. Peter faces his own limitations and weaknesses in face of a person with such power. He only resorts to a confession that it must be his fault for not being worthy of such a person in his life. But what is actually going on is what we today call a paradigm shift.
Paradigm shifts occur when what we know and what we believe in suddenly becomes turned inside out and upside down, leaving us with no firm ground, or in Peter's case, no firm sea upon which to set ourselves. Peter knew the Sea of Galilee, he earned his keep as a fisherman so he had to be confident that when you don't catch fish the fish just aren't there.