“Come, Follow Me!”
Father Hanly’s homily for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, was delivered on Chinese New Year’s Eve.
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: First Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
This is a busy day for everybody, I’m sure, getting ready for the celebration of Chinese New Year.
Today, we have the calling of Jesus’s disciples.
It seems rather sudden. Jesus comes and he sees Peter and Andrew, his brother, and he says, “Come, follow me,” and they follow him. Then he goes on a little bit further and there are the sons of Zebedee, John and his brother James, and he says, “Follow me,” and they leave everything and follow him.
It seems quite simple. It probably wasn’t originally that simple, but Mark likes to be simple, he likes to telescope many events.
We know from John’s gospel last week that Andrew was all the way down near the Jordan where John the Baptist was probably a follower, with another unknown disciple. And they saw Jesus, and John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and they followed him, without being called.
They asked him and Jesus said, “What are you looking for?” They said, “We want to see where you live.” And he said, “Come and see.” And they not only stayed the afternoon, when Andrew came back to Galilee and spoke of Jesus, already he was very well known, and he said, “I have seen the Messiah.”
So that when Jesus returned to Galilee, and he began his mission in today’s calling, he was already somewhat familiar to all of those men that he had called.
And yet there was some kind of immediacy. It was like no turning back. Once you are called, the time has come.
What is the time?
The time has come that the Kingdom of God has come. The Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God is in your heart. The Kingdom of God is around you, it’s all around you.
And we are to go out and say, and this is what we tell everyone, “Come back to the Father! Return to the Father! Come to the Covenant! There is a Kingdom that is going to begin now with me and it will spread until the whole world hears the Good News of the gospel.” (inaudible) that kind of beginning.
Now, when you’re called by God, because, in the gospels and in the Old Testament, everybody gets called by God. It’s not that we make the first move, He makes the first move.
Remember Abraham. God calls Abraham out into the starry night, lets him look at the stars and says, “Abraham, some day, all these stars will be people who will be blessed in your name.” And so Abraham followed God. And together they opened up a whole new world. God called Abraham and Abraham said yes.
Very simple. And, down through the ages, this is the way it has been: God calls and we respond.
But in the calling we must remember that He is not only calling us to something, He’s calling us away from something.
God says, “You must leave the things of your past life. You must come away with me, Abraham. You must leave your family, your traditions, everything, and come and I will show you a new way.” So it is that Abraham leaves.
What does it mean to leave everything and follow God? It doesn’t mean…
You can do it sitting in your seat right here and now. It doesn’t mean necessarily a geographical move like Abraham. Because to leave the past, to leave… He gives a hint.
Jesus says, when he says to his disciples, “Leave your nets,” he knows they are fishermen and he says to them, “Leave your nets, and I will make you fishers of men.” “I will make you fishers of men” means, for us, in a very simple way, it means forget the things and turn to the people, to leave your fish and turn back to human beings.
This seems like it’s fairly obvious, but it isn’t. It isn’t. Because if you look at eighty-five percent of your life right now, it’s involved in things and things. And our lives get so cluttered with things that we forget, sometimes, the people. People kind of receive (inaudible) Just for moment think how much of it is you say, “I can’t do that. I don’t have time. I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that.” It’s always things, things, things.
Now, what Jesus is saying is to come with me is to turn your world around and start saying… Because I am calling you to take people more seriously than things. A society that takes people first, (inaudible). Ninety percent of all the apparatus of society is involved in things, and we get so wound up that we forget that at the heart of the message is the Kingdom of God.
And what is the Kingdom of God? It’s God’s love. And what is God’s love intended for? For building things for the apparatus of a big community? No, God’s love reaches out only to human beings. He cares for us. He loves us. He has compassion. He forgives.
And this is the simple message that all involved in their business of selling and buying, and catching and filling nets with fish. He’s saying, “I will make you fishers of human beings.”
And this is why I have come: to bring this most important message. This message (inaudible) and a message that can change, not neighborhoods, not material things, it can change the human heart.
And when they change the heart, they will change the world. Because the world will not be made up by better programs, or better buildings, or safer automobiles, etc, etc. It will only be made up by God’s love touching person after person through other human beings who he called on to love him and to travel with him.
So what is the Kingdom of the God?
Well, the Kingdom of God is very simple. The Kingdom of God is Jesus. Jesus is the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not a territory, it’s God Himself, coming, in love, to create a family. And it is Jesus who (inaudible).
And so what he is saying to those little fishermen, he is saying, “You come with me and then I will show you the Kingdom, because you will be walking with the Kingdom, because the Kingdom is myself and what I have come to give the world.”
And, if you look at it this way, it’s quite simple.
But we have a great fear, sometimes, of what we call vocations. What do we mean then is a vocation. He calls each of us, even without moving out of Hong Kong into another place, into a foreign territory, he is calling us to look into our hearts where the real Kingdom is.
This is a kingdom of compassion. This is a kingdom of reaching out to others, especially the poor and the needy. This is a kingdom that heals. This is a kingdom that studies so that we might understand more deeply, that we might, as St Ambrose says, believe that we might understand, that we might understand that God loves us, that we might understand that Jesus has come to show us how to change ourselves and to change the world.
This is the Kingdom. And this is what God calls all of us to.
The first thing, though, you say, “Well, this is all very well, but who’s going to put the bread on the table? Who’s going to pay for the groceries? Who’s going to get my son into Harvard when he is twenty-seven years old, or whatever it is?” We’ve got all these problems, you know. We have to do a lot of things.
What’s wrong is, or what has to be set right, is not a new plan, a new library, a new teaching. It is Jesus saying to us, “I am with you and I call you to walk with me. I enter your heart but, as I enter your heart, you too are entering the heart of God. And we will walk together and talk together and eat together. No wonderful new kind of world; it’s just the old world transformed. And it’s transformed by the Kingdom of God, the presence of Jesus in each and every one of us.”
To be aware of this is not necessary. It is done whether we like it or not. For God will have his way, ultimately. His way will triumph, ultimately. But the triumph will be God’s. And the way will be God’s.
And God sent Jesus to show us the way. For Jesus is the way, he is the truth and he is the life.
What paralyses us, of course, is our own fear. Our own fear of what will become of us if we give ourselves completely into his hands. And what will become of our families? And what will become of our jobs? And what will become of all the things that we are preoccupied with?
And Jesus says the only answer is to have faith, believe in me. I am not going to change this world and you are not going to change this world, but, together, God will use us both to change this world.
My favourite passage from scripture I’m going to read to you now, and especially good, I didn’t plan it but this gospel is read on New Year’s Day, in Chinese, in the New Year’s Eve special Mass before the Tuen leen fan (Reunion Dinner for Chinese New Year).
And rightfully so because the Tuen leen fan is a sign and a symbol of the Last Supper (inaudible). It brings people together. It praises peace, harmony, unity, not only among our own families but the families of the world.
And so it is fitting that I will read to you, now, this part from St. Luke which you very seldom hear but which is at the heart of everything I have been trying to say.
Trust in God’s providence, have faith in God’s providence, trust in God’s fatherly care. That’s the beginning now this is the scripture.
“He said to [his] disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear.
For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.
Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds!
Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span?
If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?
Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore.
All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.
Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.’”
(Luke 12: 22-34)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen