Many of us come from a nation of material abundance. We have all the things we could possibly need not only to survive, but to thrive - food, shelter, mental ability, income, access to medical care. Most people in human history lived with far less than we. So why are we so dissatisfied? Some Christians can be drawn to the "prosperity Gospel." This is the idea that following God will bring us material abundance in this life.
That surely seems to be the story of today's Gospel! Peter and his friends chose - with some faith - to put out their nets a final time at Jesus' command. "They caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking." What gift! What abundance! What prosperity! Peter and his friends caught more fish than they'd ever seen. Yet what is their response to this material abundance, this gift from God? They leave it behind. "When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”
Praying for God to meet our physical, material needs is not a bad thing! Jesus himself includes "give us this day our daily bread" in the prayer he teaches his disciples. The question is, how do we respond when our prayers are answered? Do we thank God briefly, or perhaps ignore Him completely and move on with our lives? Or do we respond as Peter did? "God ? You showed up in an area that has no bearing on my eternal salvation. You gave me a gift I didn't even really need. You love me! You really do love me." Is our gratitude only surface level? Or do we allow ourselves, like Peter did, to respond with wonder, awe, and deeper discipleship?
Live the Liturgy - Inspiration for the Week
Have you ever felt a compelling urge to respond to a situation and then found yourself questioning whether you should do so? Fear often takes hold of us, and we find ourselves making excuses for why it is better to just mind our own business. There is a voice within each of us that is saying, "Follow me". What does this prompting mean? The purpose of discipleship is not to secure our own station in life and enhance our comfort zone. Discipleship is about taking risks and venturing forth into the unknown, tending to the needs of others and being prophetic voices of change. We will not drink deeply of life until we listen to the voice of God within. When God asks, "Whom shall I send?", will you reply, "Here I am. Send me!"?
Gospel Meditation—February 17, 2019
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
What an audience Jesus has in today's Gospel! "A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of people from all over Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon." Disciples, pagans, and devout Jews gathered together to hear Jesus speak in the Sermon on the Mount. All of these people had something in common. God was someone to be bargained with, and if God liked you, you were rewarded with good fortune. This Sunday, Jesus tells us a different story. "Woe to you who are rich, who are filled now, who laugh when all speak well of you. Blessed are you who are poor, you who are now hungry, when people hate you and when they exclude you and insult you." Jesus completely flips the script on what it means to be blessed by God. What he proclaims as "woe" are states of life we often strive for, and "blessed" are the states we work hard to avoid!
Jesus is concerned with the kingdom of God and the world to come, not the typical structures of power and privilege. The word "now" appears often in these statements. Why? If you are well "now," that's beside the point. To be rich in this life has no direct bearing on your immortal soul. If you're struggling "now," that's not an indication that God has forgotten you or that - in light of eternity - you're worse off than someone else. In fact, it could be an indicator that you're enduring something that will bring you to a place of greater, eternal joy in the future.
This Sunday, consider your priorities. Who do we reject as not blessed, and thereby inflict woe upon ourselves? When we encounter difficult situations in our own lives, do we see them as opportunities to remember God and lean on His mercy and grace?
Live the Liturgy
Inspiration for the Week
Getting ahead in the world is something many see as important. Success, a comfortable life, and worldly securities are seen as what is needed to achieve happiness. Whether or not we like to admit it, these pursuits are operative in many of our lives. As much as we want to believe in the Gospel, we also find it hard not to cling to these other things. Unconditional trust in God must be first if we are going to perceive the kingdom of God. And while God does not want us to go out of our way to be miserable, Jesus clearly gives preference to those who are poor, hungry, weeping, marginalized, vulnerable, and despised. When people encounter these things, they touch God. It teaches us not to get too comfortable with our riches and that there is much more to true life than the stuff we find so important.