Sunday of the Word of God
My dear friends, behold that son who bears the imprint of his father. “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” Here is that beloved son who walks before us bearing that mark of love. Love was his birthmark. Shepherds recognized him, wise men from the East adored him, Mary and Joseph rejoiced in him, John the baptizer proclaimed about him; Peter, Andrew, James and John left their boats and their father and followed him; today, we look at him; we see him; we recognize him as that beloved son.
Some weeks back we celebrated that great revelation at the river Jordan. River Jordan became a special place- a signature place- in God’s mission. It’s that place where immersion in God’s love happens. Jordan is that flowing river which symbolizes the experiences in God’s love; a river that has witnessed civilization in Galilee and has seen generations of human experiences, yearnings; a river that has heard the cry of the poor and a river that has witnessed oppression and unjust treatment of widows and orphans (take for example the Potomac river that has seen the evolving human life in Maryland); and Jesus too experienced that growing up in Galilee; so Jordan is a summation of being immersed in the reality of life in Galilee… being in that culture…becoming part of the human reality, the real incarnational experience – the word becoming flesh. And that is how God marked him as his beloved son, a son who bears the imprint of the farther. So baptism at Jordan became that special moment of immersion in God’s love that would anoint Jesus for the mission of God.
Matthew Chapter 4 now captures the beginning of that mission by the sea of Galilee. Jesus saw them and said to them, “come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Here is the beauty of discipleship; “at once, immediately, they left their nets, their father and followed him.” My friends, discipleship comes across as a personal call. That Son who bears the imprint of the father is the attraction and nothing else. This Jesus, this enigmatic personality, was the attraction at the sea of Galilee and he continues to attract us in the sea of life. The disciples saw that word that has taken flesh among them. But, did the disciples ask ‘what will happen to our comfortable living?’ Our nets, boats, parents, job security, insurance… what will happen to my Hakuna matata living – “Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase, Hakuna Matata! Ain’t no passing craze, It means no worries, For the rest of your days, It’s our problem-free philosophy, Hakuna Matata!” No, they just left their boats and followed him. Discipleship is a personal call.
If Christ is our attraction, if God has called each one of us, we are not alone here. Disciples are not alone in doing God’s business. We are not alone with our struggles and conflicts. God dreams with us in our chaos and disturbing realities. We at times abandon our faith because we don’t understand it anymore. I remember, in a rural area in Sri Lanka, I had gone with my students to help out with the flood victims. An old lady hung onto my cassock and shouted, ‘father tell me, where is God? She cried, “we lost everything in the war; when we were barely standing on our feet, there came the floods that took everything from us.” Human realities can be gruesome, frightening, bring out our insecurities, yet remember God keeps God’s promises. Dear friends, discipleship is that shared dream of the kingdom of God. This is God’s shared vision for all humanity. So, each one of us is called to join in the imagination for the kingdom of God to be a true disciple.
It means, discipleship in the Kingdom of God is not a lovey-dovey story. In the reality of things, we are constantly overwhelmed by situations, people and events. A hurtful memory, (somebody said something really hurting or being rude to you or not showing kindness in time of difficulty); I don’t wish to face a hurtful memory, but rather would like to withdraw from it and the reality is that the hurt continues hurt me and everyone else around me. Take a moment to think, in that hurt, where is my imagination for the kingdom of God? Am I ready to be a disciple of Christ in these situations? Similarly, think of this. We are hurt by injustice, inequality in the world; it could be in our working places, at the bus station, or the market place. Let’s ask, where is my imagination as a true disciple for the kingdom of God in these situations?
Therefore, disciples cannot be spiritual tourists. In a recent homily Pope Francis talks about ‘spiritual tourists’; Rome is full of tourists who come to visit the sacred catacombs, churches, relics.. We all know about this, right? We all have been tourists ourselves somewhere. A touristic visit is not a ‘lived-in’ experience. We see something and we pass onto the next..Jesus becomes bit of an exhibit, we admire it, take down notes, take a selfie but pass onto another.. a comfortable visit, not a lived-in experience, but just a memory.. Ture disciples cannot say, oh we visited you, we saw the catacombs, said a passing prayer, made a contribution to the Church, took a selfie, and our children studied in Catholic schools. Spiritual tourism my friends can become an escape from the demands of true discipleship and demands of the Kingdom of God.. Spiritual tourism can make us mere visitors to a church, an easy-going Christian living, perhaps a bunch of hakuna matata Christians, but not the true disciples of Christ.
So let’s keep dreaming with God; as we enter into celebrating God’s mystery in the world, a word broken for us, let’s humbly ask God’s holy spirit to inspire us and strengthen us in moments of trials and tribulations. Let’s find time to dream, to contemplate, to ponder about God’s story in my life so that we may become true disciples who bear the mark of Christ in our living and be ready to risk everything for the kingdom of God.